Dealing with Caregiver Stress
When someone close to us begins to face the realities of an advancing illness, many of us will begin to define ourselves as caregivers. For many, becoming a caregiver offers the opportunity to express how deeply we care about our loved one. In a very real sense, it is a truly heroic and demanding role.
Although support from your palliative or hospice care team can greatly reduce the stress on family caregivers, caregiving will still present challenges. Learning how to deal with the stresses that are a natural part of facing a loved one’s illness, as well the stresses that come from stepping into the caregiving role, will help you provide the best possible care. This includes seeking support from others, such as other family members, church families, friends, and even neighbors.
As a caregiver, it is critical to remember to make time for yourself and to take care of your own needs. The care that you give your loved one suffers if you are not in the best possible place, both physically and mentally. It is vital that you remain healthy and able to provide your loved one with the best care you can—and that begins with taking care of yourself.
As a caregiver, it is important to remember to make time for yourself and to take care of your own needs. The care that you give your loved one suffers if you are not in the best possible place, both physically and mentally. It is vital that you remain healthy and able to provide your loved one with the best care you can—and that begins with taking care of yourself.
Learn to recognize the signs of caregiver stress. Sleeping or eating problems, anxiety, headaches, depression, guilt, and muscle fatigue or tension are just a few. The following are some ways you can keep your stress levels in check.
Tips to relieve caregiver stress
- Ask for help from friends and family. Some would–be helpers hesitate to offer because they don’t know your needs. Though asking for help may be difficult, the benefits for you and your loved one will outweigh your hesitations. You are likely to find that many are glad to help—and may have been waiting for you to need them.
- Stay connected. It is important to maintain relationships with others and not just with the loved one in your care.
- Keep a journal. Talk or write about your feelings, whether they are good or bad. A regular record of events and emotions will help you recognize stress before it becomes a problem.
- Learn all you can about your loved one’s illness. Know what you can expect and what new issues might arise.
- Tackle one thing at a time. Break a challenge into smaller parts.
- Take time away. It may be difficult, but try to find time for yourself. Don’t completely isolate yourself in the caregiving role. Take time for your hobbies; they will help take your mind off the situation and your responsibilities, even if it’s just for an hour or so a day.
- Talk to others. Look for support groups. It often helps to speak to others who are in a similar situation and can share your frustrations, feelings, and concerns.
- Celebrate your successes. Allow yourself to feel good about your efforts. This is not a role that demands absolute perfection. Take pride in what you are doing for someone else—it really is a big deal.
- Breathe. Take a deep breath and gain perspective. You are giving the best part of yourself to help someone you love. One day you will be able to look back and know what you contributed.
- Harness humor. Stay in touch with your sense of humor. Sometimes laughter really is the best medicine.