In our work at nursing homes, skilled nursing home facilities, and home based psychotherapy, we witness caregiver stress all the time. Although caregiver stress is not specific to the geriatric population as other people caring for someone else experiences this as well, it is both prominent and prevalent in this growing population (read more here). And as people continue to age, the numbers of people caring for people with Dementia and Alzheimer’s also continue to grow.

What exactly is caregiver stress? According to Womenshealth.gov, caregiver stress is the result of providing giving care to a person with an illness, injury, or disability.  It takes an emotional, psychological, or physical toll on the caregiver. Many report feeling depressed and anxious. stress. They often feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and sometimes hopeless or helpless to make any changes. For many caregivers, they provide help and are ‘on call’ most of the time and don’t get many breaks. Their time caring for another can and often does bleed into spending time with other family members or friends and even alone time to catch your breath and do nothing. 

This is becoming increasingly prevalent and problematic for caregivers who ‘care’ for their aging parent, even when they are in a nursing home or assisted living facility. 

5 Ways to Manage Caregiver Stress

1.) Compartmentalize. What does this mean? In a simple form, it means put your life in boxes – to the degree you can. Think here and now. What do I need to do today? This week? And that’s it. What is a priority? What can take a back seat? Make lists and set both short and long term goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day so you don’t have to get everything done by yesterday. 

2.) Set boundariesLearning how to ‘just say no’ even to something small can and often does make a difference. People – especially women- have a difficult time saying no. Wracked with guilt and believing they have to do it all, creates a hold they find difficult to crawl out from under. However, remember if you don’t learn how to set healthy boundaries and say no to the little things, exhaustion and fatigue will quickly take over and your ability execute and take care of the bigger things, will dissipate.

3.) Recognize the signs. Womenshealth.gov lists these as important signs to look out for:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling alone, isolated, or deserted by others
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Gaining or losing a lot of weight
  • Feeling tired most of the time
  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Becoming easily irritated or angered
  • Feeling worried or sad often
  • Having headaches or body aches often

4.) Seek additional help and assistance (if possible). Although I recognize this isn’t always possible because of resources, especially financial, when it is possible, look to other people – family or friends to help you. Also consider community resources. There are often hidden nuggets of resources that many people are not aware of that can make all the difference. Getting extra help might be for you as well. Talking to a friend or having a therapist to help you vent, strategize, or simply listen has many positive benefits. We are need help now and again. 

5.) Exercise, sunshine, and breathe. These are two things that can be included in your lifestyle everyday and they are free. Sure, you might not think you have the time, but even a 20 minute walk around the block will give you both time to yourself, a break, an opportunity to clear your head, and if during the day, Vitamin D. Meditate. Making healthy food choices (limit carbs and sugar) and drinking water (which prevents dehydration) keeps your energy level even with less ups and downs. Learning to manage stress is key to having optimal health even during life’s difficult and challenging times.

And finally, don’t forget to add laughter to your life! It’s the best medicine! Read the article here..

By taking time for yourself, even just a few minutes to start, will allow you the opportunity to breathe and exhale. By taking time for yourself you will show up the next time you are needed with your ‘A game’ feeling more refreshed and ready to tackle what comes at you.

Still want more information? Our online store carries many products for both you – the caregiver – and your aging parent – to help you get by the day and stay current with all the new information out there. Come visit us! 

Additional Resources:

AARP Care for Self

Caregiverstress.com