“Sometimes, I wonder how if I can handle one more day with my aging parents! Am I experiencing caregiver stress? How do I know and what can I do?” – Patti from Stone Mountain

If you think you are struggling with caregiver stress, you are probably right! When you are trying to cope with your aging parents and meeting their needs, you are less likely to make yourself a priority. Neglecting yourself can impact your ability to provide care, and it can also lead to health problems of your own. At some point, you may not be able to handle everything and experience burnout. Hopefully, you can deal with your stress before it gets to that point.

Does This Sound Familiar?

Caregiver stress can manifest in several ways. Look for these signs:

  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • A short temper or anger you cannot control
  • Difficulty sleeping even when you are tired
  • Self-destructive behaviors, such as drinking, smoking, or misusing prescription medication
  • Sadness, uncontrollable crying, or feelings of hopelessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or finishing tasks
  • Changes in eating habits that may result in rapid weight gain or loss
  • Feeling anxious or excessive worry
  • A suppressed immune system with a string of colds or other illnesses

Any or all of these signs of caregiver stress can limit your ability to care for yourself or your loved one. You understand the importance of quality care for your parents; now you should recognize that you deserve the same thing from yourself that you give to those around you.

Baby Steps

Take a deep breath, and then take a look at this list of things you can do to make your caregiver stress, well, less stressful. You may want to:

  • Learn to say no! Try to limit your obligations to make your tasks manageable and realistic. It is okay to speak up for yourself.
  • Be realistic. Unless your outfit comes with a cape, you are not superhuman. Perfection should not be a goal.
  • Lighten up. Laugh a little, find the humor in the situation, and don’t take yourself so seriously.
  • Make sure you exercise regularly and eat healthy foods to keep your body in good working order.
  • Talk to your doctor if your anxiety and depression are overwhelming and relentless. You may want to find a therapist to help you with feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or grief that often accompany caregiver stress.
  • Look into respite care or other resources when you need a break. You can find quality interim care for your aging parents so you can take a vacation or just enjoy a few days of rest.
  • Ask for help. When you are the primary caregiver, other family members may defer to you or give you vague offers of help that you do not accept. Find a way to delegate some of your to-do list to reduce your stress.
  • Join a support group. Most communities have resources for caregivers to provide an environment where you can find your peers. It’s a great opportunity to listen and learn from each other.

Any of these can make a difference in the quality of your life as well as your stress level. Start by making one or two changes, and see how you feel. You may discover you have more energy and patience with your aging parents, which in turn can make you feel better about your role as a caregiver.

Be kind to yourself, and good luck!

-Lisa

 

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