Caregiver Stress: 5 Tips for Managing Life as a Caregiver
Taking on the role of caregiver for a senior loved one can be challenging. You're faced with a number of new responsibilities and unfamiliar feelings, like worrying about handling the additional obligations that come with caregiving, or fear about the future. You may feel guilt for not being able to do more or even anger and resentment towards your senior loved one.
While serving as a caregiver can be emotionally and physically exhausting, know that what you’re feeling is normal. Although you’re unlikely to eliminate caregiver stress completely, the following techniques can assist you with managing life as a caregiver.
1. Devote Some Time to You
Setting aside a few minutes each day to meditate or reflect can greatly lessen feelings of being overwhelmed. Take time to learn meditation techniques, whether from classes, books, DVDs, or online.
In addition, consider the following activities to keep your body and mind healthy:
Engage in daily exercise.
Exercise is an important part of maintaining overall health and wellness, but it is often the first thing to go when stress comes. Even just 30 minutes of brisk walking a day can have major health benefits, not just physically but also mentally. Exercise produces endorphins which are known to decrease stress, so make sure you are prioritizing exercise in your daily routine.
Schedule regular medical checkups.
Sometimes the stress you are under comes simply from the circumstances you are in, including caring for an aging loved one who may have a variety of issues. However, sometimes stress can be induced by other factors that you may not be aware of. Visiting your doctor regularly will help ensure that there isn't more going on with you that needs to be taken care of. Your primary care doctor may also have helpful recommendations for you as you care for your loved one.
As with exercise, eating the right things is an important part of overall health, and can also be the first thing to go when things get stressful. Eating well takes effort and time (cooking meals, shopping for fresh foods, etc.), and when life gets hectic it is always tempting to go for convenience (fast food, pre-packaged foods, etc.). However, taking the time to eat the right kinds of food will not only have physical health benefits, but will help you relieve stress, too.
Get plenty of sleep.
Stress and sleep have an interconnected relationship— not getting enough sleep can increase stress and irritability, while stress can decrease the quality of sleep as well as your ability to sleep. Make sure you are getting the sleep that you need. The Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. You probably know yourself well enough to know where in that 7-9 spectrum you need to be in order to function at your best.
Doing things you enjoy, such as engaging in a hobby.
According to VeryWell, people with busy and stressful lives may need to engage in hobbies more than the average person. It may seem obvious that doing things you love will decrease stress, but it's easy to lose sight of these with the business of caregiving. There are a variety of benefits, health and otherwise, for engaging in hobbies, so make sure you make them a priority.
2. Know your Limits
You’re busy, but you can only do so many things at once. Research indicates that you’re not as efficient as you may think when you multitask, and it may even harm your health. When you multitask, you may think you're able to get more done, but oftentimes things slip between the cracks because you are being pulled in so many directions.
Understand that at times you may have to say no, and that's okay! Setting boundaries is critical to managing life as a caregiver. For the responsibilities you do take on, make lists and use a written calendar to manage it all.
3. Celebrate the Positive
Among your many responsibilities as a caregiver, it can be easy to overlook those touching, beautiful moments you have with your loved one. Take time to enjoy the special times, and try to laugh every day; it’s good for both your physical and mental health.
One great way to celebrate the positive is to remember and talk about beloved memories from the past. Reminiscence therapy is a wonderful way to connect with your loved one while looking back and being grateful for the memories you've had together in the past.
4. Seek Support
Even if you have taken on the role of primary caregiver for your loved one, you can’t do it all alone. It’s not a matter of if you’ll need help from other family members, community resources and senior care providers — it’s a matter of when and how much. Without a support system in place, you will burn out quickly, which will compromise your ability to provide the best possible senior living situation for your loved one.
Research has shown that social support can help you cope with a wide range of difficult situations, says AARP. Consider seeking support in the following ways:
- Connect one-on-one with old friends, or take advantage of social media for busy schedules.
- Contact a senior care expert who can help.
- Ask family members and friends to listen without judging.
- Ask for help and support from your place of worship.
- Seek assistance from a social worker, counselor or therapist.
- Seek out a caregiver support group online, through a hospital, or connect with a senior care provider in your area that can help.
- Consider Adult Day Services or other senior living options.
- Inquire about At-Home Services in your local area.
5. Take Care of Your Needs as a Caregiver
Amid the stress of caregiving for a senior loved one, it’s easy to forget your own needs. Taking the time to care for yourself, understanding that you can only handle so much, celebrating special moments and seeking support can help you stay strong and confident as you continue managing life as a caregiver.
If you are experiencing stress caring for your aging loved one that is too much to handle, don't be afraid to reach out and look for other care options. At Presbyterian Senior Living, we have many different options for seniors to get the care they need while finding a community that they can call home.
About Emily Shoemake
As the Digital Marketing and Public Relations Specialist at Presbyterian Senior Living, Emily produces content for the PSL blog and engages with our audience on social media. Emily is a Shippensburg University and Delta Zeta alumna from Bedford County, Pennsylvania.