August 30th, 2011 at 9:00 am
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5 tips for dealing with caregiver stress

by Judy Kirkwood

When my sister was taking care of my father and mother, she always came through for them. But after the crisis was over and they were feeling better, her own health suffered. Being a family caregiver can be overwhelming. It is natural to feel angry, frustrated, and drained at times. Literally. But it can go beyond a bad day.

Did you know that stress signals the body to release adrenaline and cortisol, sending signals that may increase your heart rate, blood sugar, blood pressure and shut down your immune system so your body can function at a high alert level? This is why caregiving takes such a toll on the body. The spirit may be willing, but the body is susceptible to all sorts of other signals that conflict with giving optimum care.

Five warning signs of caregiving stress

Here are five warning signs of caregiver stress. Perhaps the biggest warning sign, however, is denial that you have any of these signs, which are common in the caregiving community.

  1. Sleeping is difficult even when fatigued
  2. Lashing out at your family member for things they can’t control
  3. Being overly critical of your skills and performance
  4. Isolating from friends
  5. Ignoring responsibilities like paying your own bills

Five steps for reducing caregiver burnout

  1. See a doctor. Make time for your own doctor appointments. See a physician about sleep problems or any other physical symptoms.
  2. Visit a therapist. Find a therapist who can help you develop coping skills for managing stress and determine if you need to be on an anti-depressant.
  3. Realize you can’t do it all. Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Even a rubber band eventually breaks if stretched too far.
  4. Keep up social interaction. If you can’t get away often, invite friends over for potluck suppers.
  5. Use respite care. Have back-up respite care, such as in-home care or adult day care–available for help whether you are too sick to function or just want to go out for dinner and a movie or if you need a regular time out for exercise, shopping or quiet reflection.

Laughter is often overlooked for decreasing stress, but it works almost instantly so take every opportunity to laugh. Watch funny movies or TV shows with your loved one. Troll the Internet for funniest videos. Enjoy jokes with your family member when they are lucid. Even when they’re not, there is often something funny that happens at some point in 24 hours, whether it’s a warm moment or things are so bad they are ridiculous.

My sister and I often laughed til we cried.

Posted in Caregiving, Stress, Support | 2 Comments »
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2 Comments to “5 tips for dealing with caregiver stress”

  1. Judy

    Yes, and the least I could do was listen to my sister vent. She did all the heavy lifting; I just came for short visits.

  2. Lila

    I can’t overestimate the value of friends in keeping you sane! Being able to complain to a close friend lifts your worries.

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