Giving care to a senior or a loved one is a rewarding experience which enriches the lives of both the giver and the recipient. However, the responsibility is overwhelming and has the potential to produce unexpected stress. In the role of caregiver, there are many responsibilities, such as meal preparation, medication management, doctor's visits, hygiene, etc. These responsibilities can begin to feel like a burden and eventually lead to an emotional, mental, and physical toll on the caregiver. However, here are some tips to help.
- Focus on your health. Exercise, eat healthy, and spend some time with friends and family. Taking care of your health will help you stay energized.
- Locate respite resources. Create a list of organizations that provide respite care such as volunteer groups, churches, skilled nursing facilities, and support groups.
- Learn about Alzheimer's and what to expect. You will be better prepared when you know what is happening and when to your loved one. As the disease continues to progress, notice changes in your loved one and adapt your care accordingly.
- Ask for help when you need it. Family and friends may be able to provide some time away from your loved one so that you can concentrate on yourself. You don't have to feel guilty for asking for a night off! There are others who can help.
- Recognize symptoms of caregiver stress and make a plan to cope with them. Symptoms often include irritation with yourself or your loved one, decreased appetite, depression, lack of sleep, etc.
- Join a caregiver support group. There will be other people in your group who will be able to support and guide you. Look for online forums, local support groups, or caregiver resources.
- Use relaxation techniques to stay calm. Mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises are some of the methods used to effectively reduce tension and stress.
- Set realistic goals. Do not set unrealistic goals or expectations for yourself or your loved one. Setting goals that aren't achievable just sets you up for failure and disappointment.
Caring for a senior or a loved one with Alzheimer's is particularly disheartening since their functional and physical abilities, memory, and behavior decline over a long period of time. For the caregiver, this deterioration can be upsetting and create an emotional roller coaster which can lead to significant health issues. The best plan for you as a caregiver is to take care of your health first!
Caring Senior Service provides a free Caregiver Stress Fact Sheet for those caring for an aging loved ones. Click here to learn more about caregiver stress.