By Kim Leatherdale
Those who take care of aging parents are generally on 24/7, with very little help even from other family members. Care giving, as many find out, can be a physically and emotionally draining task that takes a major toll.
Caregivers go through periods of stress and anxiety, no matter the age or the needs of an elderly parent. As a caregiver, you must also take care of family responsibilities as well as the needs of the aging parent. Needs which include but aren’t limited to communicating with doctors, dealing with appointments, and handling emotional issues with their parent. In such situations, the you are at an increased risk of stress.
If you are a caregiver, answer the following questions to determine if you might be under some level of stress. Answer honestly.
Caregiver Level of Stress Questions
- Do you feel you don’t have any time left over for yourself?
- Do you regularly wish you could leave the care of your elderly parents to someone else?
- Do you feel your health has been compromised because of care giving?
Stress like that endured by caregivers can lead to many problems such as:
- Depression and Anxiety
- Relationship difficulties
- Physical injury
- Increased risk of drug or alcohol abuse
- Decreased immune system functions leading to illnesses
- Higher mortality risk
For example a caregiver may be required to spend an average of 70 hours of care every week for an elderly parent who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. That sort of time takes a toll on body, mind and spirit. It is vital caregivers not neglect their own physical, mental or emotional health.
You can take charge of your own health every day by using a few strategies for relief even if you are caring for a senior. Here is a model of 8 ways to nurture your own body, spirit and soul (they spell “THE MODEL”):
Strategies for Caregiver Stress Relief
- Time for you: Find time for yourself daily even if only 5 minutes stretches. Go outside. Pray. Meditate. Watch T.V. Read. Take 5-minutes for yourself as often as possible throughout the day.
- Help is required: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most people are more than willing to help, but are afraid to imply that you can’t do it yourself. Taking care of you as the caregiver should be a major priority of your family members and friends. Find community resources to help such as a support groups and professionals to help you in the home Besides you can’t and shouldn’t do it all on your own.
- Enjoy something daily: Read, write, pray, paint, draw, make Zentangles – do something that brings you joy and relief - and do it every day without fail.
- Move daily: Do 15 minutes of walking, yoga, dancing, stretching. anything to help your body, mind, and spirit decompress.
- Outside is calling: Every day go outdoors, even for a few minutes – open the windows, sit on the porch, walk in the yard, check the gardens, smell the flowers – fresh air can be invigorating!
- Don’t forget yourself: Take care of yourself, your body, and health. Eat well-balanced and nutritious meals, take your vitamins and drink lots of water every day. Try to get at least 5-8 hours of sleep every night. Schedule naps when your elderly parent naps.
- Elevate your mood: Smile every day. Find something to smile or laugh about every day. Humor and smiling are healing.
- Listen to your body: Don’t ignore that aching back or growing depression. Don’t push your body to the limit. If something is wrong, get it taken care of before it becomes something worse.
Remember, taking care of an aging parent offers a sense of accomplishment and pride, but it also takes its toll in many ways. If you are the relative of a caregiver, do what you can to make his/her life easier. As the caregiver, when you practice stress relief measures and try to stay as active as possible you’ll feel better about yourself and your situation. Both you and the elderly parent you care for deserve that good feeling.
About the Author: Kim Leatherdale is a licensed professional counselor and relationship blogger. She offers on-line, phone, and in office counseling and relationship coaching. For more information visit her website: CreatingRewardingRelationships, Facebook page: CreatingRewardingRelationships, or Twitter account: HappyCoupleXprt “