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Coping with caregiver stress

Question:

caregiver stress
Caregiving is getting too stressful. How do I get a grip?
 

Answer:

Caregiver relief is out there, but it takes time and effort to track it down. Right now you probably feel too overwhelmed to take the time to look for assistance. Maybe you've fallen into the trap of thinking that it's just easier to do it yourself. Or perhaps the person you're caring for has become dependent on you and doesn't want anyone else to help, which might make you believe that you are the only one who can provide caregiving. This is a common pitfall of caregiving - one that puts you on a dangerous path of caregiver stress that can adversely affect your own health and well-being. 

 
Here's how you can begin to break the caregiver stress cycle:
 
  • Tonight, take the time to list all the home care tasks you performed today. Then, add any other tasks you regularly perform throughout the week. Categorize them under personal care (grooming, bathing, medications or feeding), transportation, doctor visits, meal preparation, socialization, exercise and supervision. Put a star next to those tasks that you perform daily or routinely throughout the week.
     
  • Make copies of the list and share it with family members, friends and neighbors who have at one time or another asked you: "Is there anything I can do to help?" See which tasks on the list they could do, especially those that are routinely performed (the ones you've starred). Accept any offers of home care help.
     
    You'll be surprised at how readily people will agree to a specific task that can become part of their regular routine. Even if just a few people respond, it will give you a chance to create a schedule with some breaks from caregiving for yourself. Do not use the free time to run off and do more errands. The idea is to give you caregiver relief. Go to your favorite bookstore, take a walk with friends, get a massage or catch a movie.
     
If you need additional help after first talking with your circle of family or friends, there are organizations that can provide more support:
 
  • The Faith in Action National Network provides support to millions of Americans with long-term healthcare needs. Volunteer non-medical senior care aides cook, drive, shop, or just check in on older adults as needed. You can find information at fianationalnetwork.org, or call them toll free at 1.866.839.8865.
     
  • Look for home care volunteers from your own place of worship, such as your church, mosque or synagogue.
     
  • Call your local Area Agency on Aging and ask about the Family Caregiver Support Program. You might qualify for ongoing assistance and even home-modification funds. Call the Eldercare Locator at 1.800.677.1116 to find the agency nearest to you.
     
  • Call your local senior center and hospitals to find out if they have a caregiver support group that deals with caregiver stress. Talking with others who are going through the same thing can really help you put things in perspective and find ways to cope.
     
  • Consider hiring non-medical senior care aides who can help with shopping, staying with your parent while you're out, preparing meals and doing many of the non-medical chores you regularly do for your parent. Even if they come in once a week, it will give you some free time. You can find them in the Yellow pages under "home health care."
     
  • If you're working, ask your employer about any employee assistance programs they might have to help you out. You might also be able to use the Family Medical Leave Act, which allows you to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave to provide home health care to a family member. 
 
At a time when you're already feeling stretched to the limit, organizing all of this can seem like just one more thing on your plate. But doing it will absolutely pay off for you. You must take care of yourself if you want to stay healthy and continue being able to care for your parent.
 
 

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