No matter how loving and close your relationship is with your elderly family member, caregiving can be difficult and stressful. Statistics show that most often when the elderly are being cared for in the home, they are being cared for by family members.
This is an interesting dynamic as many times parents find themselves in a role reversal with their adult children. This can cause stress, frustration, and even panic, as both the caregiver and the senior may struggle to define new roles within the relationship. This can be further heightened if your elderly loved one is also dealing with illness, injury, or has limited mobility due to the natural processes of aging. It becomes crucial for caregivers to understand that they need to find ways to deal with the stresses of caregiving in positive and proactive ways. Here are some tips about how to deal with the stress of caregiving:
- Knowledge is the key to dealing with problems. One of the major stresses for caregivers is not knowing or understanding how to effectively deal with problems and concerns that arise while caring for their elderly loved one. We have written a number of guides with experts in the field to help caregivers understand and overcome some of the challenges they may face trying to effectively communicate with a loved one when words fail or are not available. [You can find these books at the Caregiving101 store (caregiving101store.com)]
- Recognize the signs of stress. Whether you are a part-time or a full-time caregiver, you can fall victim to the stress of caregiving. It is important to realize that unabated stress can grow exponentially and cause serious problems if left unmanaged. Many of the horror stories about mistreatment of the elderly have resulted from the stress of caregiving and its effect on the caregiver. Knowing and recognizing what your stress limitations, and what you can do to minimize them can help you deal more effectively with the stress you are under as you fulfill your role as a caregiver. If you need to, consult with your doctor about the stress you are feeling, and possible solutions.
- Do not be ashamed to use respite care. Many caregivers fall into the trap of feeling like they are the only one who can care for their loved one. While this may be noble, it can lead to serious stress. You must keep in mind that even if you are the only family member, there are qualified and licensed respite care services that can care for your loved one in a caring, dignified way. Letting others help in the difficult task of caregiving can give you the break you need to alleviate some of your stress. You should take regular breaks so that you can take care of yourself and return to care for your loved one with more energy and enthusiasm.
- Take care of yourself. Care giving while being rewarding, is also demanding and sometimes difficult work. Caring for yourself goes beyond taking occasional breaks. Most caregivers have competing demands of family, job, and other outside interests in addition to their caregiving duties.. You must take time to balance your life as best you can, and understand that you cannot be all things to all people. You must set realistic goals and expectations, establish your limits, and do not be afraid to involve other people in the care of your loved one. Taking care of your own health is also crucial. The next time you are thinking of skipping that doctor’s appointment, ask yourself “Who will take care of my loved one, if I become sick?” [see also our book on this topic: "Put Your Mask On First: The Caregiver's Guide to Self-Care", also available at the Caregiving 101 Store (caregiving101store.com)]
About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.
Common sense advice and instruction based on proven principles of communication, engagement, and daily living are the heart of everything R.O.S. offers for family caregivers. Improving quality of life for caregivers is our mission, and designing everything for a family caregiver struggling with a loved one is the starting point. Whether it is dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, visual impairment, developmental disabilities, or any other issue that forces someone to care for a loved one, R.O.S. and its Caregiving 101 program are here to help.