Tips to Help Family Caregivers Reduce Stress

female caregiver holding elderly mother's hand

Tips to Help Family Caregivers Reduce Stress

April 11th, 2022

Acting as a caregiver for an aging parent is among the greatest and most rewarding acts of love. Even so, the experience comes with a unique set of trials and tribulations. The fierce love and loyalty that make you your parent’s strongest advocate can also be your own downfall as you navigate the physical and emotional toll of unfamiliar territory.

 To feel successful and productive in this role, you’ll need to learn how family caregivers reduce stress — and put what you learn into frequent practice.

 

Common Causes of Caregiver Stress

Family caregiving requires a special kind of devotion. It can be incredibly gratifying, but also exceedingly stressful. Some of the reasons you might feel caregiver stress include:

 

Fear: Worry that you’re making the wrong choice or concern about what the future holds for your loved one can be a heavy burden.

 

Finances: If you’re carrying the financial weight of your parent’s care, the financial toll can breed stress and anxiety.

 

Isolation: Caregiving puts you in the unique position of rarely having time to yourself, but also feeling removed from everyone and everything else in your life.

 

Burnout: Over time, the ongoing pressure and responsibility can wear on even the most loyal caregivers, and this can leave you feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. It’s a recipe for caregiver burnout.

 

Guilt: As a caregiver, it’s common to feel that your decisions come at someone else’s expense. Time with a parent is time away from kids and work; time tending to your needs means you’re not there for your parent.

 

How Managing Your Own Stress Helps Your Loved One

When you’re chronically stressed, not only are you sacrificing your own well-being, but you’re probably not the best caregiver you can be, either. Stress breeds impatience, forgetfulness and other traits that make caregiving even more challenging. As a family caregiver, reducing stress regularly equips you to be a better support system for your loved one.

 Be alert to signs you may be experiencing caregiver stress, such as fatigue, constant worry, weight changes, easily provoked irritability or anger, sadness, loss of interest in hobbies or activities, physical symptoms like headaches, and self-medicating with alcohol or drugs.

 

Practical Ways Family Caregivers Can Reduce Stress

If you’re seeing signs of stress or burnout, it may be time to take a step back. Here are some ways caregivers reduce stress:

 

Practice self-care. Recognizing what you need will help you provide more effective care. Practice good lifestyle habits like eating right and exercising. Draw strength from your faith or spiritual beliefs. Get adequate rest and carve out regular time for yourself. Pursuing a hobby, meditating or just enjoying some quiet time alone are all ways family caregivers reduce stress.

 

Accept help. It can be difficult to entrust your loved one’s care to someone else, but when the offer comes, take it. That might mean having someone sit with your parent while you enjoy dinner with friends, or it might mean a family member or neighbor runs some errands for you.

 

Be realistic. Keep your standards and expectations within reach. Don’t hold yourself to a standard of perfection, and give others the same grace. Set goals for what you can realistically accomplish and create routines that make sense for you and your parent.

 

Join a support group. The knowledge that you’re not alone is powerful. Spending time with others in caregiving roles provides much-needed social support, along with practical advice and a chance to lean on others who truly understand what you’re experiencing.

 

Honor your role. While you may be providing support and care, you aren’t a parent to your parent. Removing that mindset and continuing to honor the parent-child dynamic can help reduce stress.   

 

Do your homework. Often, stress and the unknown are closely connected. Learn what you can about your parent’s condition or needs so you have an idea what to expect and how to prepare for the future.

 

Get organized. Family caregivers wear many hats, and keeping all the details straight can only add to your stress. Devise a system for keeping everything straight, from appointments and medication lists to care team contacts.

 

When You Need More Help

There may come a point when, as a family caregiver, reducing stress isn’t enough and it’s simply not sustainable for you to continue. When your own life — including your children, friends and career — take a back seat over an extended period, it erodes your own physical and mental well-being. If, try as you might, the stress still overwhelms you, it’s time to consider other solutions.

 Fortunately, senior living communities offering long-term assisted living and memory care — such as Garden Plaza of Florissant — provide a terrific resource to families when caregiving at home is no longer an option. We encourage family caregivers to remain closely involved in their loved ones’ care, and we even share advice on how to approach talking with parents about moving so they understand the many benefits of assisted living.

 Ultimately, many families find our resident-centered approach and loving, caring environment make it easier for residents to transition to a new setting. Schedule a tour (in person or virtual) to see how Garden Plaza could be the solution for your family needs.

 

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