As we age, so do our parents and loved ones. This means either by choice or by necessity, we become caregivers for the people who once cared for us. Being in this position is all at once rewarding and overwhelming. It’s rewarding to know that what you’re doing is making your loved one comfortable and easing any emotional or physical pain. It’s overwhelming on the days when nothing you do seems to be easing the discomfort.
Caregiver stress is far too common and completely understandable. Some of us make the decision to be a caregiver without giving it a second thought. We usually don’t have time to think about what the job entails. We just know that our loved ones are important to us and we want to help any way we can. If you’ve signed on to be a caregiver, let us first say thank you. Thank you for taking on the responsibility. Know that you are appreciated. Our loved ones can’t always express their gratitude, so we are doing it for them.
If you’re questioning whether or not you are experiencing caregiver stress, read over the following checklist. If you recognize any of these signs in yourself, consider making an appointment with your doctor and/or seeking help.
- feeling overwhelmed or worrying
- tired, not sleeping well
- mood swings such as; anger, sadness
- headaches, bodily pain
- addictive behaviours with alcohol or drugs
- losing interest in things you enjoy
Do any of the signs resonate with you? If so, here are some steps you can take to keep your stress managed as best you can.
1. Call a supportive friend or family member. Someone you can vent to. Someone who was a caregiver before, if possible. If you don’t feel like you’re being heard or feel like you’re getting nowhere, talk with a therapist or counsellor. If you have trouble formulating thoughts verbally, try writing. Talk, journal, get your feelings out. Once you express how you feel, you will be better able to understand them and will be better equipped to deal with the stress of caring for your loved one.
2. Do your best — nothing more, nothing less. We know not to do less than our best. But, what about those times when we strive for more? When we over exert ourselves to provide more than we’re capable of providing on a long-term basis. Try not to judge yourself harshly and know that your best is good enough.
3. Call for help. Whether it’s a community support program like ours or a family member, be vocal about what kind of help you need. If you don’t speak up everyone around you will assume everything is under control and that you don’t need help.
4. Maintain a routine. Caregiving is your new normal. The demands placed on you are different now. Sets goals that are realistic and try to establish a routine within your new normal. Look at your schedule and turn down major events that require you to give more energy than you have. There’s no need to give up your social life, but consider saying no to the things that require more energy than you have to give right now.
5. Set aside time for your health. Sleeping well, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and drinking plenty of water will give you the energy and wherewithal to care for your loved one. This is one aspect of caring for ourselves that can stress us out even more. The key here is to start with small changes. Begin by drinking an extra glass of water a day or eating one more serving of vegetables at dinner.