Care for the Caregiver to Prevent Distress

cargiver - overwhelmedThe responsibilities and challenges of caring for a loved one in their Minnesota home can place significant stress on the family caregiver. In fact, this stress can build up to actually cause caregiver distress—a situation where the caregiver may become more susceptible to other health risks such as such as ulcers and weight loss/gain or even more chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease. home care mn As we noted in our June blog, there are many risk factors including being a woman and caring for senior with Alzheimer’s Disease. To prevent caregiver distress take the Family Caregiver Distress Assessment, adapted for Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis to learn how to deal with the stress of caregiving and balance the varied emotions that so many family caregivers struggle to understand. The reason this “self reflection” method is so important is that repressing emotions takes a terrible toll on family caregivers.

Research conducted by the Home Instead Senior Care® network reveals that caregivers who hide their emotions are 2.3 times more likely than other caregivers to have experienced depression since becoming a caregiver. Why is it so common for caregivers to hide their emotions (and don’t say it’s a Minnesota Norwegian thing)? As we noted in last month’s blog post, some don’t recognize that they are a caregiver. Others have difficulty processing their emotions and many don’t have an outlet for expressing or sharing their emotions. “It’s difficult to admit feeling angry or frustrated when it comes to caring for your parents,” said Dr. Amy D’Aprix, a caregiving expert. “The uninformed often give disapproving stares if you’re a family caregiver and say you’re feeling frustrated…It’s great to free up caregivers to express their emotions as just that – their true feelings about what they’re going through on their caregiving journey.”

Hear more from Dr. D’Aprix in this video.

Dr. D’Aprix recommends the following process to help caregivers come to grips with the rigors of caregiving.

  1. Acknowledge feelings. It’s OK to feel conflicting emotions as a family caregiver. Perhaps 30% of your emotions are anger-related and 20% are guilt but 50% is love. Try to hang onto that 50% of your heart that knows you’re doing the right thing.
  2. Manage the situation. Oftentimes there’s no other way around it: Caregivers need help. If you can’t find support with family, go to trusted friends, faith community or consider speaking to a home care provider.
  3. Release the feelings in a safe way. Journaling is one effective way that family caregivers can get their feelings out. Talking to other caregivers at a support group or talking to a therapist might also help.
  4. Find solutions. Relaxation is one option. “Make a list of things you enjoy doing to reduce stress,” Dr. D’Aprix advises. Reading, watching a favorite television show, attending a faith service, exercising, visiting a museum, meeting friends and listening to music are all activities that many caregivers enjoy…”

Once you re-discover activities you enjoy, Just 15-20 minutes here and there each day when you can focus on yourself will make a world of difference in managing your caregiver stress.  According to a new Home Instead Senior Care survey, 55% of family caregivers that employed professional caregiving services appeared to have above average or significant levels of stress as they came on board.

home_care_mnThese tips are recommended while taking care of an aging loved one:

  • Work out: Exercise and enjoy something you like to do (walking, dancing, biking, running, swimming, etc.) for a minimum of 20 minutes at least three times per week. Consider learning a stress-management exercise such as yoga or tai-chi, which teach inner balance and relaxation Minneapolis was recently named one of the top healthiest states because of the vast opportunity for exercise.
  • Keep your medical appointments: Make sure you get your annual check-up. Being a caregiver provides many excuses for skipping your necessary check-ups, but don’t do it. A healthy you is worth more to your aging loved one than a sick, weak you.
  • Meditate: Sit still and breathe deeply with your mind as “quiet” as possible whenever things feel like they are moving too quickly or you are feeling overwhelmed by your responsibilities as a caregiver. Many times you will feel like you don’t even have a minute to yourself, but it’s important to walk away and to take that minute.
  • Take a break: Consider respite which is full time-short term care that others can provide (family, friends, volunteers or professional caregivers) while you get a break. Take single days or even a week’s vacation. And when you’re away, stay away. Talk about different things, read that book you haven’t been able to get to, take naps, whatever relaxes you and makes you happy.
  • Indulge: Treat yourself to a foot massage, manicure, nice dinner out or a concert to take yourself away from the situation and to reward yourself for the wonderful care you are providing to your senior relative. You shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to feel good.

And, laugh! Mary Maxwell has some advice for a senior whose daughter is not making the above mentioned life choices.

Everyone needs some pampering occasionally, for both physical and mental health. If you’re caring for a senior in their home, don’t feel guilty if you treat yourself once in a while…you deserve it and you need it.

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