Dealing with the stress of a caregiver – The secret of being a healthy caregiver

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Taking care of a person who is suffering from either Alzheimer’s or dementia can not only be intimidating but also challenging at times. Irritation and constant frustration are inevitable emotional responses to the pangs of being a caregiver to a dementia patient. Little bit of irritation can definitely be a part of your daily life as a caregiver but if this balloons up to an uncontrollable frustration, this can have serious impact on you and on the person you’re taking care of. Stress and frustration can have a negative impact on your physical health and can make you verbally aggressive at the same time.

Being a caregiver, whenever you feel frustrated, it is necessary that you try to differentiate between what you can change and what you can’t. Whenever you try to change an unruly circumstance, you feel frustrated and being a caregiver to your loved one who is suffering from dementia, you’re bound to face several such situations. Daily life chores like bathing, dressing and eating can become the biggest reasons of frustration. So, how are you supposed to respond to such circumstances? Read on to know more on this.

Dealing with caregiver stress

No matter you hire a pro home care Smithfield, there will still be certain tasks that you ought to do on your own. This is when caregivers report experiencing heightened levels of stress. In order to strictly avoid a burnout, here are the few symptoms that you should be aware of:

  • Denying about the impact of the disease and thinking that your family member will get better with time when the fact is just the opposite. Dementia worsens with time and the caregiver has to accept the truth.
  • Feeling angry at the dementia patient about the fact that he is not able to do all the things that he previously could do on his own. When the caregiver thinks that the person is just being stubborn and is intentionally not eating on his own, this means that the caregiver is under stress.
  • Anxious about everyday and about the future. Worrying about what would happen in case the dementia patient requires more care than what is being provided at present is also a sign of caregiver stress.
  • Withdrawal from social life and from activities that you loved before starting with your responsibility as a caregiver.
  • Exhaustion to such a level that is gets in between your regular tasks. If the caregiver feels tired about doing small household jobs, this is also a sign of stress.
  • Depression that keeps you from coping with the challenges of life and that breaks your spirit. Feelings like you don’t care anymore about anything show that you’re stressed.
  • Irritability which leads to all sorts of negative actions and responses like ‘Leave me alone!’
  • Sleeplessness and insomnia caused after attending a long list of concerns like what would happen if the patient wanders out of the house or falls and hurts him.
  • Health issues that start taking a physical and mental toll.
  • Lack of focus which makes it tough to concentrate on familiar jobs or forgetting appointments.

Respond to the demands without getting frustrated – What’s the way out?

Now that you’ve come to terms with the fact that you can’t change the behavior and personality of the dementia patient and you can’t transfer him to professional dementia carers Australia for further care because he prefers living at home, you have to learn to control your feelings.

  • Try to calm down physically

Once you’re aware of the above mentioned signs and symptoms of caregiver stress, you have to intervene amidst the activity that you’re doing in order to calm yourself down. When you do this, you can respond in a controlled and poised manner.

Frustration can be fought by following few strategies. Count from 1-10 slowly while taking deep breaths, take a short talk, enter another room and recollect your thoughts. It always works if you can leave the place for a while and then join back after gaining control. In case you feel that your loved one will feel disappointed if you suddenly leave the room for no reason, tell him you need to use the washroom. You may even try talking to a friend over the phone, listening to a song, meditating for a short while or taking a bath.

Sit down in a quiet place, take deep breaths and make sure you relax the tension that you’ve already created in your both. Try repeating a calming phrase or a word that gives you inner strength.

  • Adapt and reshape your thoughts

When you’re taking out time to collect your thoughts, try thinking about situations which could reduce levels of irritation. The way you think will always have an impact on the way you feel and hence negative thoughts will give rise to more and more frustration preventing you from taking a positive look at the situation. Overgeneralization, discouraging the positive, jumping to conclusions, speaking too many ‘should’ statements, labeling and personalizing can lead to negative thoughts. Try changing all these thoughts and make them positive.

  • Assertive communication helps

You must be aware of the fact that proper communication can reduce levels of frustration by letting you express yourself without making others understand about your needs and limitations. Remember that assertive communication is not similar to aggressive or passive communication. Passive communication is where you suppress your needs to avert any conflict and though this seems easy, it is easier said than done. On the contrary, aggressive communication means forcing your desires and needs on others. But when you communicate assertively, you express your personal desires and needs while paying due respect to other’s needs.

Since you’re playing the role of a caregiver to a dementia patient, you have to constantly evaluate your own behavior so that you don’t gradually sleepwalk into a stage of forgetfulness just like the patient himself.

Essential self-care tips for the caregiver

Caregiving can be emotionally and physically exhausting. But despite being in the profession of taking care of your loved one who is suffering from dementia, you have to remember the fact that you too need to squeeze out time to recharge your batteries. There are additional pressures of caregiving as well like conflict within the family, financial strain and social withdrawal.

With time, caregiver stress can cause burnout which is a specific health condition that is marked by fatigue issues, irritability, and sleep issues, feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and social isolation.  Chronic stress releases the harmful stress hormones inside your home that leads to a weakened immune system, irritability, exhaustion, headaches, digestive distress and weight gain. If you’ve long been thinking of knowing the tips for taking care of yourself, here are some that you may keep in mind.

  • Be compassionate about yourself

Unless you’re kind to yourself, you can’t promote self-care. When we say being compassionate about yourself, we mean giving yourself enough credit for being able to successfully take care of a dementia patient. You should avoid the tough inner voice and give yourself time, even if that means devoting just few minutes in a day. When you don’t have enough energy and time, squeezing out time for yourself can be challenging enough. Practice self-care so that you can become more focused, balanced and impactive as a caregiver.

  • Breath awareness may be practiced for 10 minutes everyday

Breath awareness is one of the best relaxation techniques. The Harvard Medical School Guide to Yoga preaches to practice paced breathing, breath awareness and breathing techniques. Here are few steps that you can try:

  • Take a comfortable seat along with a cushion
  • Even though distractive thoughts might come and go, let them pass and focus only on your breathing
  • Make sure your eyes are closed and concentrate on your breathing
  • Slowly breathe in through your nose for 5 counts, hold in your breath, pause for 5 counts and then exhale.
  • Continue breathing for 10 minutes
  • Extend your relaxation for obtaining deep relaxation
  • Try meditation, tai chi and relaxation techniques

There are several kinds of mind-body practices like tai-chi or meditation which can’t just enhance the awareness of your body but also builds a proper connection between the body and the mind. If you can take out time for yoga, this can reduce stress among the caregiving groups. Once you hire a professional, he can advise you on the best yoga practicing poses, techniques of meditation and breathing processes. You can also install smartphone apps like Meditation Oasis, Headspace or Insight Timer.

  • Stay connected socially

Although it can be challenging to keep up with all kinds of social appointments when you’re engaged in medical caregiving, yet it is necessary to maintain all sorts of social connections so that you can prevent an unwanted burnout and feel less alone. You can turn to the social media in order to stay in touch with your friends.

  • Eat properly and get enough sleep

When you are too engaged in helping your loved one in bathing, eating and walking around, you tend to forget about your own meals and sleep time. The key to prevent burnout is by getting proper nutrition and maintaining sufficient sleep time. If you wish to follow night-time routine before you go to sleep, you can go for yoga poses, meditation and other breathing exercises. In case you begin to skip your meals, this can heighten your irritation and frustration and cause inflammation in the body. If you’re into drinking alcohol, avoid it as this causes inflammation in the body and hampers your sleep.

  • Get professional help

Being a caregiver, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need help. But as you’re always focusing on helping another person, you often find it impossible to ask for help as they think they’re only destined to take care of others and not to be taken care of. Below mentioned are few strategies for seeking help:

  • Remind yourself that it’s okay to ask for help from friends and family members. You can’t always do everything by yourself.
  • Seek help of people who can visit you in person, have a chat with you, make a meal for you or take you out for a short period of time.
  • Call on adult day care and home health care services whenever you think you need their help.
  • Use local and national resources to know how you can pay for receiving respite care services.

In case, you wish to join a support group that is dedicated to the caregivers of Alzheimer’s disease, you can do so. These groups meet online or even in-person to share their personal experiences about their own caregiving experiences. Check online, seek recommendations from your doctor or get in touch with your local Alzheimer’s Association.

Additional tips for self-care

Now that you are already aware of the various self-care tips for a caregiver, here are few other tips that you should take into account.

  • Know you may feel hopeless and powerless about everything that is happening to the person for whom you’re taking care of.
  • Know that you can feel a sense of sadness and loss and you have to accept the fact.
  • Know the reason behind why you take care of a person with dementia. Question yourself whether or not you have made this choice out of a sense of duty or loyalty or love or due to financial concerns.
  • Give yourself enough time to feel the regular ‘uplifts’. These can include positive feelings regarding the person you’re taking care of, seeking support from other and the time that you spend on your self-interests.

Therefore, if you’re someone who has the duty of taking care of a person suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, you have to first think of taking proper care of yourself. Consider the above mentioned tips and strategies to be a healthy caregiver.

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