On average, family caregivers spend 24.4 hours per week providing care and 25 percent of caregivers actually spend 41 or more hours per week doing so. Caregivers provide senior care in the form of support with activities of daily living as well as performing tasks such as grocery shopping, housekeeping, transportation, and so on.
If you are one of these caregivers, you are to be commended. Being the primary caregiver for a senior whose mental or physical health is declining is one of the most stressful and challenging jobs you will likely ever have. For this reason, you may find that you need some additional support to handle your situation.
However, sometimes caregivers fall prey to a different level of stress, one that is not natural or healthy. How can you know if your stress level is approaching this level? And what can you do to handle your stress effectively as a caregiver?
Symptoms of Caregiver Stress and Caregiver Burnout
The Alzheimer's Association provides a list of stress symptoms that caregivers should never ignore. They are:
- Denial of the seriousness of your loved one's condition
- Social withdrawal from friends and activities that you once considered pleasurable
- Depression or apathy
- Sleep disturbances
- Inability to concentrate
- Health problems that seem to linger, or follow closely one after another
If these symptoms are not addressed promptly or appropriately, you may fall victim to a more severe condition known as caregiver burnout. With this condition, the symptoms mentioned above become even more pronounced, and your ability to function and provide adequate care for your loved one or even for yourself is compromised.
Considering the serious effects of caregiver stress and caregiver burnout, it makes sense to seek help as soon as you recognize any of the symptoms mentioned above.
Tips for Caregiver Stress
The good news is that you can manage caregiver stress effectively if you pay heed to what your body and mind are telling you. Here are some tips for relieving caregiver stress:
1) Cultivate a smidgen of selfishness: As the primary caregiver for a loved one, you are likely accustomed to putting your needs on the back burner. This, however, is not always a sustainable strategy. Your needs are just as important as the needs of the one for whom you are caring, and you cannot deny that and still remain physically and emotionally healthy.
Practice a mindful approach to self-care. Pay attention to your body and your spirit. Take time each day to re-connect with the inner you, even if it is only for a few minutes.
2) Assert your independence: Caring for a loved one can narrow your world view down to just the small space of your senior's orbit. Resist the inclination to limit your focus to the failing health of your loved one. Assert your independence by remembering who and what you are, apart from your role as caregiver.
3) Breathe: Something as simple as breathing can help you reduce stress. Just as deep breathing can help women endure the pain of childbirth, so too, can deep breathing help you relax. Take a few minutes each day to sit somewhere quiet and simply breathe deeply in and out for several minutes.
4) Tap home health care for help: One of the best ways to relieve caregiver stress is to find outside help to take some of the load off your shoulders. The truth is that, even though you are indispensable to your loved one, there are other people who can take some of the routine tasks off your plate, giving you time to handle more important matters.
Home health care is an excellent way to get help for your senior and relieve your own stress levels in the process. Home health care workers will help your loved one with activities of daily living, such as bathing, grooming, toileting, eating, and so on.
Home health care workers provide respite care so that you can have some time away from a stressful situation. Sometimes respite care for even a few hours can revitalize your spirit to handle your responsibilities.
An added advantage of home health care workers is that your loved one benefits from interaction with someone new as well. This can lower your loved one's stress levels also, making the situation better for everyone concerned.
The Bottom Line
Providing good care for your senior need not send you into debilitating stress. Remaining in touch with your own feelings, taking time to care for yourself, and using available home health care resources can help you to provide your loved one with excellent care, while still maintaining a balanced lifestyle for yourself. Contact us today to request help for your loved one, and take control of the stresses in your life.
Older adults living with these and other chronic conditions may find it difficult to manage their illness alone. As a caregiver, you may be wondering if and when to step in to help an aged loved one to shoulder the burden of chronic illness. Here are some factors to consider which will help you provide the support and care your older one requires.
When a beloved family member dies, it is natural and expected that the bereaved family will grieve. Often, however, the family and friends of the deceased are not the only ones grieving the loss. Professional home caregivers also feel a great loss when a client dies.
However, unlike the family of the one who passed away, professional caregivers are often expected to simply shut down their feelings of grief and move quickly to a new client assignment. This unrealistic expectation can lead to serious emotional issues for professional caregivers. If someone for whom you provided care for some time has died, what can you do to process your grief and move on?
Expert Interview Series: Kian Saneii of Independa On Thriving In Place
Kian Saneii is the CEO of Independa, Inc., providing high tech, yet high touch, solutions for remote engagement and care.
Independa helps people not only "age in place", but instead "thrive in place". To start, what inspired you to start Independa? How much has it changed, since you first began?
I experienced firsthand the difficulties and related anguish of providing care to an elderly loved one, and set out to create an offering that would allow caregivers to "be there" regardless of their physical distance. The core mission to make it possible to enable better care from afar has remained the same, delivering peace of mind to caregivers, and reducing costs and anguish for caregivers and care recipients alike.
Lila's experience is not unique. There are many cases of families who discover that what they thought to be signs of dementia in their aged loved ones are, in actuality, signs of hearing loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.
If you are caring for a senior aged 65 and older, it is important to ensure that your loved one gets a flu shot this season. Why? The CDC reports: "It is estimated that between 71 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older, and between 54 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in that age group."
In other words, seniors are at high risk for flu-related complications. This is largely because, as seniors age, their immune systems weaken over time. This is true even for seemingly healthy seniors, but it is even more important to prevent the flu if your senior is already suffering from other physical ailments.
Senior Population Growing Rapidly
Some would argue that there is already a shortage of caregivers to care for the increasing senior population. But statistically speaking, a wider gap is imminent. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2014, there were 46.2 million people in the U.S. over the age of 65. They represented 14.5 percent of the population.
Now, fast forward to projections for the year 2040. By 2040, adults ages 65 and over will account for 21.7 percent of the population. By 2060, it is estimated that 98 million Americans will be 65 or older. That is more than double the number of seniors in America today.
Since it is much easier to prevent a bedsore than to heal it after it forms, it is important to learn about the risk factors, causes, and treatment of bedsores before they become a serious problem for your loved one.
As your parents or older family members age, they may not eat as healthily as they once did. Some issues that affect older people, such as frailty or depression, may make it either difficult to plan and prepare meals or difficult to summon the energy. All too many older people make do with less than nutritious meals.
Many older Americans are food insecure, which can stem from multiple factors, including difficulty accessing healthful and inexpensive food or challenges in paying for an adequate amount of food. In addition, if they are living alone, they may lack the motivation to cook for themselves.
Coupled with these challenges, though, is the importance of eating well to senior health overall. Eating healthily can keep in check health conditions common to the elderly, like diabetes and heart disease. It can improve the overall energy level of seniors and keep their brain functioning optimally. Good nutrition has a preventive effect on illnesses as well. In short, healthy eating is part of good senior care.