A colleague in Chicago, Robert Stelletello, Owner of Right at Home Oak Park / Chicago, has shared these thoughts in an ElderCare Matters piece recently:
It starts with your Father needing help monitoring his daily medications.
Not too much later he needs regular at-home care.
If you are a primary family caregiver, you understand the tough sacrifices and joys of helping your elderly loved one with daily routines such as bathing, dressing and eating, or making medical and financial decisions. Yet, without realizing it, your efforts to comfort and support your loved one may be eroding your own health by contributing to elevated risk of high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and anxiety. Stress from caring for an aging loved one can also increase the likelihood of headaches, disrupt your sleep, and cause depression.
To help, try the following caregiver stress relievers:
Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. Don’t give in to guilt. Feeling guilty is normal, but understand that no one is a “perfect” caregiver. You’re doing the best you can at any given time. Your house does not have to be perfect, no one will care if you eat leftovers three days in a row and you don’t have to feel guilty about asking for help.
Get connected. Organizations such as the Red Cross and the Alzheimer’s Association offer classes on caregiving, and local hospitals may offer classes designed for families of those suffering from the disease your loved one is facing. Join a support group. A support group can be a great source for encouragement and advice from others in similar situations. It can also be a good place to make new friends. Seek social support. Make an effort to stay emotionally connected with family and friends.
Set aside time each week for socializing, even if it’s just a walk with a friend. Whenever possible, make plans that get you out of the house. Many caregivers share that maintaining a strong support system is key to managing the stress associated with caregiving. See your doctor. Get recommended immunizations and screening. Make sure to tell your doctor that you’re a caregiver. Don’t hesitate to mention any concerns or symptoms you have. Ask your doctor about ways to support your own health.
Refresh your own health. Exercise at the gym or take a brisk walk a few times a week. Be sure you maintain good nutrition and get sufficient sleep. Recruit help. Enlist the support of family members, friends and neighbors who can lend caregiving help. Also, seek regular breaks through respite care offered by a professional in-home care service, such as Right at Home. Stay connected. Keep up your own family connections and friendships. Having a close friend or clergyman who you can share your thoughts and emotions with is crucial as you work through the unknowns and challenges of caring for another person. Continue with your own life. To maintain balance, it’s important to stay active with your own interests, hobbies, and social groups.
Don’t skip the fun events or forgo your normal faith and community activities. Relieving stress regularly before health issues arise safeguards your love one’s care and preserves your relationship with them – one shared meal, one doctor’s report and one fond memory at a time.