Assessing Caregiver Stress
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Alleviate the pressure to ensure safety and health
Anyone who’s ever been a parent knows how hard caregiving can be. That’s not to say there isn’t joy, but there is also fear, anger, anxiety, and a mix of other emotions that can become overwhelming. Caring for an elderly parent, especially one who is suffering health complications that leave him or her incapable of performing the basic functions of daily life, can wear a caregiver down quickly. Elder abuse is often a result of unchecked caregiver stress.
Solo Moms are used to having all the responsibility heaped on them, but the additional strain of caring for an elderly parent adds to the pressure. If the pressure gets too high, there can be negative consequences for the caregiver and the loved ones whom she cares for.
The following 10 questions can help you assess your stress level:
- Are you feeling overwhelmed?
- Are you feeling lonely or isolated?
- Are you feeling angry or depressed about the changes in your relative?
- Are you having difficulty sleeping?
- Are you having unexplained physical pain?
- Are you having trouble concentrating?
- Have you had crying spells?
- Are you feeling irritable about a loss of personal space and time?
- Are you feeling torn between your caregiving duties and your family?
- Do you feel like you’re not getting the support you need?
If you answered yes to many of these questions, you need help. It’s OK to need help—even when you’re used to doing everything on your own. Here are some ideas for support that can help alleviate stress.
Caregiving is a stressful job, and we can’t easily care for the people who need us when we’re not taking care of ourselves. Self-care techniques are widely encouraged in the health-care field as a way to refocus the mind and relieve stress. These techniques are good for anyone in a high-stress job, and the best news is that self-care techniques can be done today, right now. Here are a few examples:
- Teatime. Set aside a few minutes every day to enjoy a cup of your favorite tea. Pay attention to your senses as you drink, giving that moment your full focus.
- Dance. Take a dance break. Put on your favorite music and boogie. Be silly. Let yourself go.
- Emotional check-in. Ask yourself, How am I feeling? Pay attention to every feeling, good or bad. Don’t judge; just make a list. Acknowledge your emotions and then say to yourself, Even though I’m feeling all these feelings, I love myself.
- Exercise. Whether you join a gym or just take a walk around the block, physical activity is known to relieve stress and will give you a great break from the daily grind.
- Keep a journal. Write about your thoughts and feelings. Getting what’s inside you out on paper will help you gain some perspective and keep the stress from bottling up.
- Spa day. Schedule a massage or an at-home spa day to relax and unwind. Taking an hour for yourself will help you feel more in control of your life and cared for.
Home help and hospice
When caregivers experience high levels of stress, it may be time to call in reinforcements. There are many in-home health options that range from full-time in-home care to occasional “sitting” services (also called respite) that can give the caregiver some time to regroup. Whatever your situation, these resources are invaluable.
If your elderly loved one is nearing the end of life, find out if he or she is eligible for hospice services. Hospice can provide comfort measures, medical equipment, and hands-on help in your home, in a nursing home, or in the hospital.
Most communities have support groups specifically for caregivers providing elder care. Check with your local senior center to find groups available in your area. Participating in a support group will help you feel less alone, and you may pick up some great self-care techniques that will make every day a little less overwhelming.
- Health in Aging has resources on aging, caregiver health, and medications, and an “ask the expert” feature.
- Caregiver Action Network has resources and support for caregivers, including real stories about family caregiving experiences.
- Family Caregiver Alliance has resources for caregivers, including a tool for finding the right caregiving solution for your situation.
- National Alliance for Caregiving focuses on national caregiving policy, advocacy, and resources.
- The American Psychological Association recommends Health in Aging’s Caregiver Self-Assessment Questionnaire.
Whether you’re assessing your own stress level or that of another caregiver, using the resources above will help you keep your loved ones safe and your caregivers healthy.
If you’re the one being cared for—a difficult challenge for many Solo Moms—make a practice of checking in with your caregiver daily and asking:
- How do you feel?
- What are your goals?
- Who can help you?
You’ll gain a clearer picture of how things are going, and your caregiver will feel supported and appreciated.
It is important to recognize the warning signs of caregiver stress and to deal with it quickly and effectively. Caregiving is stressful, and feeling stress doesn’t make you or your caregiver a bad person. But stress left unchecked can lead to burnout or even abuse. It’s critical that you find the support you need and practice self-care techniques to ease the stress of being a caregiver.
Please see our Elder Care section for more articles and information on caring for seniors.
Amy Rivers is a writer and mother of two. She has a master’s degree with concentrations in psychology and political science, and enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction pieces about women and women’s issues. Her debut novel, Wallflower Blooming, was released in August 2016. You can follow her on Twitter at @WritingRivers and learn more about her work at her website, www.amyrivers.com.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.
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