I recently had the privilege of hearing a presentation about caregiver stress from Valda Garber-Weider, RN, MS, certified dementia practitioner and director of assisted living for the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community (VMRC.) Valda has also been a long time caregiver for her own elderly family members in her own home.
Valda reminds us that “studies show 70% of full time caregivers will die before the person they are caring for when the full time caregivers don’t take care of themselves. Remember that after the caregiving ends, you need to be healthy enough to enjoy life.”
Thanks to Valda’s generosity and her commitment to educating caregivers, you can download a copy of her excellent presentation here: Caregiver Stress, Strain and Burden
Here are some excerpts:
What is caregiver stress?
- Caregiver stress is any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain for a person who provides care for another individual.
- Caregiver stress may result in many behaviors – including anger at the person who is the care recipient because of the care needs that may keep the caregiver from doing many of their own activities.
- It may result in guilt – that care provision is not adequate or not ideal.
- It may result in frustration – experiencing the same questions over and over again may result in frustration that then becomes anger.
- Stress can result when a person’s personal or professional life is interrupted by caregiving. It may impact the caregiver’s job performance or ability to stay employed.
When does stress become strain and eventually a burden?
- Caregiver stress happens when care provision is constant for the caregiver.
- Caregiver strain is the perception or feeling of difficulty with duties and responsibilities associated with the caregiver role.
- Caregiver burden is the alterations in caregiver’s emotional and physical health that can occur when care demands outweigh available resources.
Symptoms of caregiver stress
- Denial – “He/she will get better.”
- Anger – “If he asks me that question one more time, I’m going to scream.”
- Exhaustion – “I’m too tired for this.”
- Irritability – “Leave me alone, I need time alone.”
- Lack of concentration – “I keep forgetting important things.”
- Sleeplessness – caused by a never-ending cycle of worry.
- Social isolation – “I don’t care about getting together with friends anymore. It takes too much energy to manage his behavior.”
- Health problems – “I feel bad, but I don’t have time to exercise or see the doctor.”
- Depression – “I just don’t care.”
Stress management involves:
- Altering one’s perception
- Adapting to changing situations
- Accepting the role of caregiver
Many caregivers feel that they must be in control, but often times they feel out of control. Try altering the situation by:
- Express your feelings instead of bottling them up
- Be willing to compromise
- Be more assertive
- Manage your time better
Adapting to the stresses you feel can help you manage your stress. Try to:
- Reframe the problem – meaning look at the problem as a way to discover new ways of coping or dealing with an issue.
- Look at the total caregiving tasks – not just the one task that is causing stress. Perhaps the current stress is relatively small when the entire task is considered. Tendency toward perfectionism can cause huge increases in stress. By looking at the entire caregiving task you can adjust what is a must, versus what is ideal.
- Focus on the positive. Think about what is going well, and not just what is going “wrong” in your day.
There are some things that must be accepted because you can’t change them. The fact that your loved one has dementia and needs care can’t be changed. The decline in a person’s mental and physical health can’t be changed. Don’t try to control the uncontrollable.
- Look for the good things in your situation.
- Share feelings with family and friends. Be honest and truthful. Although caregiving is unique to each care recipient, feelings about caregiving seem to be universal.
- Learn to forgive yourself for your mistakes. Also, forgive those who do not understand you and make comments about what you are doing and how you are doing it.
Take care of yourself by:
- Setting aside time (however small that time may be) to relax. It might be with a cup of coffee or tea early in the morning, before your busy day begins.
- Spend time with people who give you energy. Those would be people you like and enjoy spending time with.
- Do one thing for yourself every day. That “something” might be insignificant to others, but can be something that gives you energy and joy.
- Keep your sense of humor. Laugh often, even when things seem to be going in the wrong direction!
- Eat healthy meals, get sleep, visit your doctor on a regular basis. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be better able to care for another person.
- Remember that there will be good days and not so good days.
- The success of an event does not depend on the completion of the task.
- Small interventions eventually mean big steps for both caregiver and cared-for persons.
- Keep the ultimate goal in mind – Creating moments of joy.
Do you need help managing the care of an elderly loved one in Charlottesville, Harrisonburg, or Staunton Virginia? Contact us at Care is There Geriatric Care Management for a free consultation: 800.434.1633 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We specialize in geriatric care management, support for independent living, assisted living enhancement and peace of mind for long distance caregivers.