Monthly Archives: April 2016

How to Conquer Caregiver Stress

How to Conquer Caregiver Stress

In the past, our blogs have generally focused on how we, as caregivers, can help the elderly, vulnerable and those in need. However, we very rarely blog about taking care of ourselves, which is an integral part of being an effective caregiver. In fact, one may argue that if you don’t know how to take care of yourself and relax, how can you help other people? The short answer is that you really can’t.

Since April is National Stress Awareness month, we decided to do a 2-part series regarding stress. Last week, in Part 1, we discussed stress as it relates to our elderly loved ones and covered in-depth what to look for and how to help reduce elderly stress. This week as we wrap up our series we will be looking at the effects of Caregiver stress and how to reduce its effects.

Although caring for an elderly loved one can be rewarding, it is also demanding, and can be physically and emotionally draining. Caregiver stress can come from a variety of things including: home life, changes in the family dynamic, the increased workload and financial pressure.

The Numbers

According to statistics, more than 65 million Americans provide care for a friend or loved one. On top of normal responsibilities and jobs, this care consumes on average an additional 20 hours per week. As you can imagine, this added responsibility puts a strain on finances. In fact, family caregivers are 2.5 times more likely to live in poverty and 5 times more likely to receive supplemental security income.

However, worst of all, is caregiver stress and its side effects. The Center for Disease Control reports that over 35% of caregivers find it difficult to find time for themselves and 29% of caregivers have trouble balancing physical and emotional stress. In addition, the prolonged stress of caregiving has caused nearly 23% of caregivers to report poor health for at least 5 years after taking care of a loved one. Finally, 53% of caregivers who experience caregiver stress report noticing a decline in the quality of their care for their loved one.

The Symptoms

As you can see from the statistics, caregiver stress is a very serious and prevalent problem. Not only is it harmful for the caregiver, but it is also dangerous for the loved one they are caring for. Catching stress before it gets out of control is imperative, here are a few warning signs that you may be experiencing or close-to experiencing caregiver stress:

  • Anxiety, depression and irritability
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Aggravated health issues
  • Tendency to overreact
  • Cutting back on leisure activity
  • Resentment
  • Feelings of helplessness and lost hope

How to Cope

As unfortunate as caregiver stress is, the silver lining is that there are several great things you can do to help relieve your stress and burnout. We have gathered some of our favorite ways, but the options are infinite. The key is to find something you love outside of caregiving and set aside time on a weekly basis to do it.

  • Get out of the house- Often when caring for a loved one, it is difficult to leave their house. Just getting out by yourself will be a big help.
  • Have daily personal time- Experts recommend setting aside at least 30 minutes each day to focus on yourself and no one else.
  • Laugh- Caring for a loved one can be demoralizing. Watch a comedy, read a funny book or go to a local improv show. Laughing will help raise your spirits.
  • Visit with Friends- Make time to meet up with friends and have a good time. Sometimes it is helpful to have someone on the outside to talk and vent your frustrations to.
  • Find the good- A lot of times it can be easy to get tunnel vision and think about all the negative aspects of caring for your loved one. Finding the good will help reduce your resentment and give you purpose.
  • Focus on things you can control- A lot of stress comes from things that are beyond our control as caregivers. Focusing on what we can control can help fight off unnecessary stress.
  • Remember that it’s ok to care for yourself!!

If you still find yourself having a difficult time dealing with caregiver stress or finding time for yourself, we can help. Wiser Home Care Services offers Respite Care Services that provides support for family caregivers.

At Wiser Home Care Services we know it is important to you to have great care for your loved one. We can help you do that. Our respite caregivers can be there overnight so you can sleep, or just a few hours so you can have some personal time or run errands.

Setting up respite care is easy. Simply call or email us and we can setup an appointment to establish a care plan to personally accommodate your loved one’s needs and help you relieve your caregiver stress.

Got Stress? Here's How to Lower It

Got Stress? Here’s How to Lower It

Congratulations! If you’re reading this blog it means you made it through one of the most stressful times of the year: Tax season. Not surprisingly, the stress caused by taxes is so widespread, April is officially known as Stress Awareness Month.

Each year, since its inception in 1992, health care professionals and stress experts have joined forces nationally during the month of April to raise awareness of stress, its side effects and how to manage stress in your life.

Whether you’re young or old, chances are you have experienced stress at some point in your life or another, stress has no age limit. In fact, statistics show that 77% of Americans regularly experience stress and stress-related symptoms. Furthermore, 1 in 5 reported feeling extreme stress symptoms including shaking, heart palpitations and depression.

While stress can be dangerous for anyone, it– like many other illnesses–, is particularly dangerous for our vulnerable elderly loved ones. Not only does stress increase their risk for heart disease by 40%, heart attacks by 25% and strokes by 50%, stress is “widely believed to accelerate biologic aging. Many studies have confirmed the negative effects of stress on immune system function and hidden inflammation.

Considering the potential danger stress poses for our elderly loved ones, knowing the warning signs and effective ways to help reduce stress could save their lives. Keep reading to learn more about how you can save your elderly loved one by reducing their stress.

The Signs

Knowing what sort of behavior to be on the lookout for will help you catch stress in the early stages and will give you a better chance of nipping it in the bud. Some of the early warning signs are:

  • Changes in eating habits- Are they overeating or do they have a loss of appetite?
  • Mood swings- This will often present itself as irritability, prolonged sadness or depression.
  • Forgetfulness- As your elderly loved one begins to feel stressed, it may cause them forget stuff that comes normally, or have trouble concentrating on things.
  • Physical signs- These signs typically include body aches, increased sickness and trouble keeping regular sleeping patterns.
  • Isolation- You may notice your senior becoming less and less interested in socializing with others. This can be a sign of stress and/or depression.

The Fix

Now that you know what to look for, here’s some ways you can help your senior reduce their stress and keep it away.

  • Find short term solutions- Often senior stress is caused by all the looming changes they are experiencing. Have your elder write down their worries and take a little time each day to figure out a short term solution. Remember: It doesn’t matter how many steps it takes to get to where you want, as long as you get there.
  • Turn off the TV and pick up a book- Increased media time, especially news channels, is linked to increased stress and trouble sleeping. Encourage your elderly loved one to spend time reading a positive book or poem rather than watching tv. The Chicken Soup for the soul is a great pick-me-up series.
  • Meditate and Practice Breathing- Learning how to calm oneself through meditation and slow, deep breathing is proven to be a great way to reduce stress. Set aside time each morning for your senior to sit, close their eyes, and meditate on positive phrases. Having them say them aloud and repeat them is another great way to instill stress-reducing habits.
  • Spend time with a Pet- There’s just something special about playing with, petting or snuggling an animal. It is cathartic and stress relieving. In fact, many communities have visiting pet programs in which volunteers bring pets to senior homes to provide companionship for elderly loved ones.
  • Get outside and be active- Not only will being active increase the overall health of your elderly loved one. The endorphins released during exercise are known to help increase happiness and decrease stress.

Now that you have an idea of what to look for and how to prevent and lower your elderly loved one’s stress, go out and have fun.

As always, If you care for an elderly loved one and would like help developing a care plan please feel free to contact us. We can help your family establish a care plan to personally accommodate your loved one’s needs.