Caregiver Stress – Caring for Elderly Parents Stress Management & Care
Caregiver stress and caregiver burnout is real. The sleepless nights, worry and agitation are real symptoms of caring for elderly parents stress.
While you are learning how to care for your aging parents, you must also continue to care for yourself.
Ways to Destress When Caring for an Elderly Parent
Caregiver burnout happens when you begin feeling overwhelmed with the daily tasks of caring for another person. You begin to feel like your whole life is consumed with that one person and you have nothing to yourself.
What can you do when you start to feel this way? First thing you must know is that you aren’t alone, and your mental health is just as important as your loved one’s health.
A Personal Caregiver Stress Story
Jessica’s Story – “My grandma walked slowly into the dining room on Thanksgiving. She had a pecan pie in her hand and a knife. She began cutting it as her hand made an uneven line. She was trying to get the slice out of the pie pan, but the knife was just cutting the pie into mush.
She has always been a very stubborn and independent woman. Asking her if I could cut the pie for her would have been frustrating and embarrassing. We all chuckled and blamed it on the fact that the pie was just the right consistency, and that it would be delicious no matter what it looked like on the plate.
That was the first time I noticed she wasn’t herself. Since then, she has needed more and more help and assistance. The last time she drove herself somewhere she got lost, despite having the GPS on in the car. Sometimes she repeats questions, and sometimes she calls the grandkids by the wrong name.
As we watch her health deteriorate, I know my grandpa must be struggling. As the mother of a child with Cystic Fibrosis, where my daily routine is focused around his medical treatments and medications, I know how easy it is to feel like you’re simply living for someone else. It’s hard. But there are a lot of ways to destress and find yourself again. Your life doesn’t have to only be about caring for another person.”
Caregiver Stress Relief Options
Here are some of your options when it comes to relieving caregiver stress and preventing burnout.
1. Respite Care
To start, one great option for getting a much-needed break is respite care. Respite care is when a qualified individual comes in and takes over the caregiving role for a few hours so you can care for yourself. Many respite caregivers are qualified nurses or medical professionals that can take on medication administration and manage medical equipment.
Depending on where you live, you might be able to find a program that provides respite care to families in need. A simple google search for respite care in your area can help you find this service. You may also be able to get recommendations from your loved one’s doctor.
2. Hospital Social Worker
All hospitals have social workers. Social workers aren’t just for children. Social workers can help navigate difficult situations and gather resources for you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can ask to speak with a social worker at your loved one’s next appointment and ask for resources. They might be able to find you local programs and help you find solutions to the caregiver burnout.
3. Help from Family
If you have family or close friends around, ask them for help. Reaching out for help can be difficult for a lot of people, but you can’t expect others to just know you are struggling. Be vocal about your needs and let them know you would appreciate if they could help you manage this difficult time. Having a family member come over and help even just one day a week so you can get out of the house can completely change your mental state. We often tell new moms that they need to ask for help and that it takes a village to raise a child. Caring for an elderly parent is no different. It is hard work, and it can be emotionally and mentally draining. It really takes a village to care for an elderly parent, just like it does for a child.
3. Elderly Groups
Bingo night, a knitting club, a book club, there are a lot of activities and groups for the elderly. Adding in something fun to your routine can help you destress and decompress. It can also bring joy to your parent and yourself. Getting old and becoming sick doesn’t mean that the fun has to stop. The last years of our lives should be spent enjoying as much as possible.
Also, getting your parent some friends and social engagement from their peers is critical for mental health. This may sound like it is just for your loved one, but really when you get out and engage in these groups, you will find yourself meeting people in the same situation as yourself. You will also find yourself having fun and enjoying a moment without the stress and focus on caring for your loved one.
4. Trips Out of the House
Getting out of the house regularly is especially important, and not just for errands or work either. You need to get out and do something fun. With or without your loved one. If your loved one is on hospice and can’t leave the house due to medical devices, then you need to take time for yourself and get out of the house.
Visit a museum, go to a zoo, go do something fun to get your mind off the stress of being at home. Being stuck in a house caring for another person is exhausting, and it can negatively impact your mental health. If your loved one is not on hospice yet, it’s okay to take them with you. Enjoy a change of scenery, it will help you destress.
6. Consider a Nursing Home or Assisted Living for Your Loved One
This can be a difficult conversation, but sometimes it can provide a much healthier environment for you and your loved one. Assisted living is for people who may need some assistance, such as help getting groceries. Whereas a nursing home is a place where the residents require 24-hour attention and medical care.
If your loved one is still mostly independent, an assisted living facility can help them make friends with peers and get them engaged in community events. If your loved one requires around the clock medical attention, a nursing home can be a good environment, as they also provide activities and engagement. If your loved one refuses to go to a nursing home or assisted living facility, ask them why.
Finding out what they want is critical. Some people might be fearful that the home will involve neglect or abuse, which isn’t an irrational fear. They may also not want to be around peers that are nearing the end of their lives because it can be depressing losing friends frequently. It can also be a constant reminder that they are at the end of their life.
If your loved one is fearful, then a nursing home or assisted living home may not be a good option, and that’s okay. Deciding what is best for you and your loved one is very personal. You may choose to visit a few local nursing homes or assisted living homes to get a better idea of the options in your area.
7. Implement Security Measures
It can be stressful caring for someone with dementia. The fear of them leaving the house at strange hours or getting lost can consume your mind. You can help ease the stress of this fear by implementing some simple security measures.
You can put alarms on your doors and windows. You don’t need an expensive security system for this either. Simple magnetic alarms can cost as little as a couple of dollars for each alarm. These alarms are battery operated and work by going off once the magnet is pulled apart. They can go on doors and windows.
This can help you know immediately if your loved one is leaving the house at night while you’re home and prevent them from harming themselves or getting lost. You can also turn on their GPS location on their phone so you can track their whereabouts if they’re still going places on their own.
There are a lot of options for GPS tracking, watches, necklaces, and even small GPS trackers that you can put in a purse, wallet, or jacket, so that you can always have access to their location. These security measures can help you feel more at peace.
8. Support Groups
Connecting with people that are experiencing the same situation as yourself can be very powerful and validating. You aren’t alone, many caregivers are experiencing the same emotions as yourself. Attend a support group for caregivers so you can learn more about how others are coping with similar situations.
You can vent about your situation, then find ways to cope with the difficulties and feelings associated with being a caregiver. Your hospital’s social worker can probably recommend a local support group. You might also be able to find one online.
9. Counseling for Caregivers
There can be a lot of negative emotions associated with being a caregiver. It is normal to feel overwhelmed, stressed, angry, sad, and even guilty. Navigating these emotions can be difficult to do on your own. Counseling can help you deal with your feelings and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
As your loved one ages and you become responsible for their health and well-being, you can feel overwhelmed with the responsibility while also feeling guilty that you aren’t happy with the arrangement. You may also be feeling sad that the person you loved and looked up to is deteriorating.
There is a feeling of loss when your loved one is living with dementia because that person isn’t the same as you remember them. Coping with these feelings is extremely important to your mental health. Seeking out counseling to navigate this difficult time can be beneficial.
10. Make Time for Yourself
While your loved one is very important to you, you still need to make time for yourself. Dedicating a set time each time to destress is important. Whether it’s soaking your feet, watching TV, or just reading a book, it’s important to give yourself time.
Dedicating time to practice selfcare can help your relieve caregiver stress and bolster your mental health. If you need to make time for yourself by not doing the dishes one night, or skipping vacuuming the house, it’s okay to do that. You do not have to do everything, every single day. It is okay to skip a task in order to give yourself a break.
11. Hire Help
If you have the financial ability to do so, hiring a house cleaner, or hiring someone to run errands such as grocery shopping, can decrease your workload and reduce your caregiver stress. If you have distant family members that can’t help in person, ask them to consider helping by paying for some of these services.
Even just being able to delegate one task to another person can give you enough time to do something for yourself. It is extremely difficult caring for an elderly loved one, especially when you are responsible for all of the tasks of their care and your own household.
12. Go for a Walk
Daily exercise and fresh air can positively impact your mental health. Exercise increases endorphins and can help you feel less stressed. Going for a daily walk around the park, or even just your neighborhood, can help you destress. Take your loved one with you and enjoy the walk together. The fresh air and change of scenery will melt your stress away for a moment.
Being a caregiver for a loved one can be very difficult. It is common to feel overwhelmed with the daily tasks and to feel like you’ve lost part of yourself. You can overcome these feelings through implementing some changes though. Taking time to destress is important can give you more joyful moments during this caregiving role.
Conclusions on Managing Caregiver Stress
The most important thing is to find a way to take care of yourself. No matter what is going on or who you are responsible for, you are always responsible for yourself first. Make yourself a priority so you have the energy and compassion to care for others.