Caregiving is one of the most important, time consuming, rewarding jobs that anyone can do. It is not easy and takes courage, strength, and compassion. You might now be the “parent” for one of your own parents. Or you may be taking care of a spouse. You might be providing part-time care or giving care around-the-clock. All of this caregiving can cause enough stress and frustration to interfere with your own health and well-being. The only way to really care for another person is to take care of you –but how? First, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and frustration. Then, you can learn to manage these conditions. The retirement and assisted living communities of Retirement Unlimited, Inc. can help ease the burden of caregiving, even on a short-term basis.
The American Health Assistance Foundation (www.ahaf.org) and the Family Caregiver Alliance (www.caregiver.org) have identified some of the warning signs of stress and frustration. Stress can manifest itself in the following ways:
• Anxiety or excessive worrying
• Feelings of hopelessness or powerlessness
• Anger at inappropriate times
• Difficulty concentrating
• Feeling chronically exhausting
• Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
Frustration usually arises from a caregiver trying to change something that is not within his or her power to change. The person that you are caring for may need help due to a medical condition or dementia. Normal daily activities such as dressing, bathing, eating, or taking medications, are more difficult. Over time, these difficulties can result in extreme frustration that may result in unintended physical or verbal aggression toward a loved one or can cause other physical problems for you such as:
• Headaches, shortness of breath, or stomach cramps
• Compulsive eating
• Increased smoking or drinking
• Lack of patience
Stress and frustration can cause many problems for caregivers, but the good news is that you can take steps to manage these conditions and take care of yourself. Some excellent suggestions from both organizations referenced above can be found in detail on their websites. Here is just a sampling of ideas that you can use:
• Meditate – Just 10-20 minutes of time can make a world of difference. You can learn meditation techniques from books, CDs, or tapes; or you can just take some quiet time to reflect
• Exercise – Many studies have shown that any physical activity can reduce stress and promote health. Get outside for a few minutes to walk!
• Keep a journal – Writing down your thoughts and feelings about the events of the day can help to relieve anxiety and allow you to reflect on the positive aspects of caregiving
• Make a plan to take time off to be with family or go on vacation
• Ask for help! Asking for help is not a sign of failure and it allows the people in your life who probably want to help you do so.
I’m sure at this point, you are probably thinking: Ask WHO for help? Make a plan to take a vacation?? I can’t take a vacation; I have to care for my mother/father/spouse!! You can take a deep breath because some retirement and assisted living communities, like those at Retirement Unlimited, Inc. can also provide the help you might need, even on a short term basis (like a two-week vacation!). Explore one of the communities on our website to find a wealth of information about the services that we can provide. Contact a community in person, by phone, or by e-mail and watch your stress and frustration begin to subside. We can help you care for a loved one. All you need to do is ask.