Care giving is a noble undertaking but even the most skilled, experienced and resilient practitioners can experience and suffer from a certain degree of what has been dubbed as â€˜caregiver stress.’ This refers to the physical and emotional strain of care giving which may take various forms like anger, apathy, frustration, exhaustion, depression, among others.
Statistics reveal that caregiver stress tends to affect females more than males. It has been estimated that approximately 75 percent of caregivers who experience feeling stressed physically, emotionally or financially are women. However, one thing is for certain, the problem stems from the fact that most caregivers have the misconception that they need to do almost everything on their own. Don’t fall into this trap and if you think you are experiencing caregiver stress, there are a number of things that can help you out.
Prioritize Your Health and Well-Being
Always bear in mind that the amount of care you allot for yourself translates to the level of care that you can give to your patient or loved one. Simply put, if you are physically and emotionally healthy, you put yourself in a better position to provide quality care to others. It is therefore imperative to take the necessary measures to preserve your general health and well-being. It may sound selfish but you really need to think about yourself first so you can be more efficient in terms of fulfilling your duties as a caregiver.
There are instances when you may be too focused on your patient or loved one that you end up neglecting your own health. This signals the start of a vicious cycle that you need to arrest as early as possible, otherwise it will consume you completely until you got nothing left to offer. Studies show that some caregivers become â€˜secondary patients’ since there is a tendency to overlook their personal well-being during caregiving. They become susceptible to developing chronic medical problems such as arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, or cancer.
Don’t add further to the misery of your patient by having them worry about you! They may even feel guilty and think that they are responsible for your condition. Experts recommend an annual visit to a physician and maintaining a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious meals and finding time to exercise.
Know and Maximize Your Resources
Being a caregiver is very rewarding but it can also be quite overwhelming. The important thing to note is that you are not alone. There are numerous organizations and support groups that can help you manage stress and keep it to a minimum. A support group is an excellent source of advice and encouragement from others who are in a similar situation. It is also a great way to socialize and meet new friends. Remember that isolation will only increase your stress level. Don’t alienate yourself because it will only compound your problem. The simple act of regularly connecting with friends and fellow caregivers can help keep the negative effects of care giving at bay.
Take a Break and Learn Some Relaxation Techniques
When you feel burned out, take a break, even a short one because you certainly deserve it. In addition, your patient or ailing loved one may benefit from the company of someone else. Oftentimes, the simple act of doing things you enjoy can help in recharging your batteries. Consider respite care by volunteers, friends or relatives. You may even opt for a longer vacation and turn to in home caregivers, board-and-care-home or assisted living residence that accepts residents on a short-term basis. This will give you peace of mind knowing that your patient is in good hands while you are away.
One of the best and tried and tested means of reducing caregiver stress is by learning and practicing relaxation techniques. These come in a variety of different ways including meditation, mental imagery, breathing exercises, biofeedback and even some behavioral changes. This means modifying certain behavior and thought patterns to help you better cope with difficult and stressful situations. For instance you may focus on fostering positive relationships, communicating feelings and sharing your expectations.
In the end, by recognizing the warning signs and taking proactive steps to help reduce stress, it would make it a lot easier for you to cope with the pressures and rigors of being a caregiver. Â Having a strong support system is also important and don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back then concentrate on the satisfaction of taking care of someone you love.
Jason Castillo is a licensed physical therapist who shares a passion for caring for the elderly. He has taught Geriatrics in a major university and a number of caregiver schools, with the objective of fostering quality and passionate care for seniors. This is his advocacy and wishes to share it with world.