Showing posts with label caregiver stress. Show all posts
Showing posts with label caregiver stress. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Finding Help for Caregivers

According to AARP, approximately 40 million Americans perform the role of caregiver for someone in their family.  Although the typical caregiver is a 49 year old woman, the truth is that more and more men are starting to fill this function in their families.  In addition, about one-fourth of caregivers are young adults between the ages of 18 and 34.  Many Baby Boomers have found themselves in the "sandwich generation."  They are still raising their own children while caring for an aging parent.

The Demands on Caregivers are Becoming More Intense

While the vast majority of ill, disabled or mentally incompetent people have always been cared for by family members, the demands now seem to be greater than ever, putting more stress on families who are caring for someone who cannot fully take care of themselves.

First, insurance companies encourage hospitals to discharge patients sooner, in an effort to save money.  This means that caregivers may have to do more than just feed, dress and bathe their loved ones.  They may also be required to perform traditional nursing duties such as giving injections or inserting catheters. Unfortunately, they may be expected to do these things with little or no training.

In addition, although people are living longer than ever before, they may not be able to take care of their own needs during the last few years of their lives.  Caregivers may be required to take care of a loved one for as much as five or ten years ... which can add a great deal of stress to the job, especially if the caregiver also has children or other family members who need their attention.

Where to Find Help for Caregivers

With all the stress involved, nearly every caregiver is going to need some help at one time or another.  In order to assist them, below is a list of resources to take some of the pressure off.  The organizations below can help you get help in your community.

Eldercare Locator:

Family Care Navigator: (for information on Alzheimer's)

Where to Find Respite Services (when you are traveling or just need a break)
OR  the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (sponsors day programs for Vets)
OR  local assisted living facilities often provide temporary respite care

Elder Companions
contact your local Area Agency on Aging

Personal Care Assistance
Contact a local home health agency in your community.  They can provide help with meals, dressing, bathing and similar services.

Meals on Wheels America (provides meals to people living alone who cannot fix their own meals)

Assistance with Transitions to Rehab or Nursing Homes

Caregiver Support for Veterans
VA Caregiver Support Line 

More Caregiver Resources Can Be Found at AARP's website: (in Spanish)

Below are several books which are also excellent resources, followed by practical tools to make caregiving a little easier.  (If you cannot see the book ads, click on the title of this article to be taken to the original article.) 

Technology That Can Help Caregivers

In addition to community resources for caregivers, you may also get some peace of mind by putting technology to use.  Below are some devices that may help:

Invisible GPS - Shoe inserts with a hidden GPS inside.  These are designed for dementia patients who tend to wander off.  Check: GPS SmartSoles

AARP Rx - A free app that will help you organize prescription lists and contact info, so you can share it with family members.

Wireless Blood Pressure Monitoring - Blip BP by BlipCare is a device that you connect to your Wi-Fi.  You can then view the readings online or on an app.

Fall Prevention Lighting - Are you worried that a loved one might fall when they get out of bed at night?  Luna Lights has a pressure pad that automatically will illuminate small portable lights in order to create a path to the bathroom at night.

Medical Alert Devices - You have probably seen the ads in which a woman, lying on the floor, pushes a button on a pendant and say, "Help me!  I can't get up."  There are a variety of these devices, including the Great Call Splash, the Philips Lifeline with AutoAlert and others.  If you are worried about a family member who does not live with you, these devices are a wonderful way to make sure you will be contacted if your loved one falls or has a medical emergency.

Floor Mat Alarm - a mat that can be put by the door or bed.  It will alert you if a dementia patient is leaving their bed, their room, or their house.  Check: the FallGuard Safety Auto Reset Monitor with Floor Mat from the Smart Caregiver Corp.

Home Motion Sensors - These sensors, such as the one made by SafeinHome, will let you know if a loved one who lives alone is unusually inactive.  Check:  SafeinHome

If you are interested in more helpful information about retirement, medical issues as we age, financial planning and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of this page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.


AARP Bulletin, November, 2015, "Special Report:  Caregiving in America"

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Stress and Disease After Retirement

Many of us blithely assume that once we retire we will be free of stress.  However, life is not that simple.  Many of the same worries and problems that occupied our minds during our working years will continue to pose concerns for us after we retire.  We may have stress because of financial pressure, marital problems, worry over our adult children or grandchildren, divorce, loneliness, grief over the loss of a loved one, the responsibility of being a caregiver, or the difficulty of dealing with illness in our own lives or the lives of a spouse or family member.

Stress can cause us to eat or drink more than we should, as well as cause us to sleep and exercise less than we should.   It can also result in the release of adrenaline and cortisol into our blood, two hormones that can increase inflammation in our body and make us more sensitive to pain and vulnerable to diseases.

The Relationship Between Stress and Disease

Unfortunately, stress can cause a variety of health issues, according to an article titled, "Stress - Don't Let It Make Your Sick," in the November, 2014 issue of the AARP Bulletin.

Listed below are common health issues that can develop when we are experiencing chronic stress:

The common cold
Weight gain
Slow wound healing
Less effective vaccines
Sleep problems
Heart disease
Irritable bowel syndrome
Ulcerative colitis
Crohn's disease
Back, neck and shoulder pain

Stress Can Create an Endless Cycle

The problem with stress is that it can start the sufferer on the road to an endless downward spiral.  The stress can contribute to one of the diseases mentioned above; then the disease adds more stress to the person's life.  The worse their health becomes, the more stress they feel.

As a result, one way to improve our overall health is to reduce our stress as much as possible and then learn how to cope with our remaining stress before it wreaks havoc with our immune system.

How to Cope With Stress in Our Lives

Obviously, it is important that we all learn how to recognize the sources of chronic stress in our lives and take steps to reduce its impact on our health.  According to "The Best and Worst Ways to Cope with Stress" from and "Stress Management" from, here are some tools we can all use:

Get outdoors regularly for fresh air and sunshine
Surround yourself indoors with plants 
Eat healthy
Cut back on caffeine and sugar
Avoid alcohol, tobacco and drugs
Identify your sources of stress and start a stress journal
Set up a budget and get your finances under control
Avoid putting unnecessary pressure on yourself
Learn to say "no"
Avoid people and situations that stress you out
Reduce your "to do" list
Manage your time better
Be more assertive about setting reasonable limits
Be flexible and willing to compromise
Learn to adapt
Ask for help, especially if you are a caregiver
Give up perfectionism
Look for the positive in your life; have a gratitude list
Learn to forgive
Learn to share your feelings; call a friend
Get regular exercise
Relax - take yoga or get a massage
Keep a regular sleep schedule and routine
Maintain your spiritual life - church and prayer
Take time for fun!

Get more information on how to deal with stress at:,,20765943,00.html

Looking for more useful health and retirement information?  Use the tabs at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional useful articles.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Becoming a Caregiver for Your Parents or Spouse

My sister just flew to Florida recently to pick up my parents, their car and some of their belongs, so she could drive them back to her home in Missouri.  My mother has severe dementia.  My father has been her caregiver for the past few years but he was beginning to become depressed by the situation.  My sister decided it was time to help him out.  She has a comfortable apartment over her garage and she was willing to have them live there, despite the fact that my mother insisted that she did not want to leave her home in Florida.  I am so grateful to my sister for taking on this difficult situation.

I have called and spoken with my father several times since the move, and he is so relieved.  He has repeatedly told me that he is much happier being around other family members and he is so glad that he is no longer solely responsible for my mother.

According to the Orange County Council on Aging, there are an estimated 20 million Americans who are still raising their own children while also helping with the care of their aging parents.  This does not include the millions of elderly people who, like my father, will spend years caring for a spouse with mental or physical limitations.  If you find yourself in one of these situations, you are not alone.

What a Caregiver Needs to Know

*  Caring full-time for another person can be demanding, exhausting and may take a toll on your job and your other relationships.  It is important that you take care of yourself and get all the help you can.  No matter what is going on with your loved one, you cannot take care of them for long if you are not taking care of yourself.  Make sure you get enough sleep, eat right, get exercise and that you get out of the house on a regular basis.

*  Have your loved one assessed by a geriatric specialist.  Make sure they also have dental, eye and hearing exams so that their quality of life is as good as possible.  There is no reason to make life harder on either you or them if there is a health issue, such as poor eyesight or hearing loss, that can be corrected.

*  Involve the elderly in as many of their healthcare decisions as possible.  If they are mentally competent, they have the right to be in control of their own life and make their own decisions about end of life care.

*  Expect that the elderly may be resistant to any changes and to your help.  They may not want to become a burden on you.  They may be embarrassed that they need your help.  They may miss having their own home, seeing their old friends, etc.  Understand that they may seem angry or depressed at times as they grieve their changing circumstances.  My mother is a perfect example of this.  Although she can no longer be left alone and she cannot cook, pay her own bills, or do many of the things she has enjoyed doing in the past, she was very resentful about the move.  She did not want to leave her own home because she was familiar with it and she felt safe there.

*  If you do not have relatives to help you, hire help, even if you can only afford to hire a care-giver for a few hours a day or a few days a week.  A caregiver may be able to drive your loved one to doctor's appointments, church or other activities.  They can also help with bathing, dressing or feeding someone who needs assistance.

*  If your spouse or parent has dementia, find out if there is an adult daycare center in your community.  This may be essential if you are still working.  These organizations provide supervision for someone who cannot be left at home alone during the day.  They also provide simple, but interesting activities for the elderly ... such as painting, jewelry making, physical exercise, games and entertainment.

*  Contact local nursing homes and assisted living facilities to find out which ones provide vacation care.  Many nursing homes and dementia care facilities can provide temporary care for your loved one when you are going to be out of town.  This may actually be more comfortable for them than dealing with the stress of airport security and other issues that could come up if you attempt to take them with you on a trip.

*   Try to make sure that your loved one's legal documents are in order ... including their will, Advance Health Care Directive, and insurance coverage.  Discuss sensitive issues, such as funeral planning, with them, if they are mentally competent.

*  Reassure yourself that their finances are being properly handled ... that bills and insurance premiums are being paid, assets are correctly invested, former residences are sold or leased out, etc.  In my family's case, my sister and my father have taken the necessary steps to list the Florida home for sale, fully furnished.  My nephew will be driving down with a truck to pick up the few items my parents want to keep and that would not fit in their car.

*  Talk to their doctor so that you fully understand what medications they should be taking and any adjustments that need to be made to their lifestyle.  For example, should their car be sold or do they need special safety equipment or assistive devices such as a walker?

*  Contact your local senior center for information on resources that may be available in your area to help you.  They may be able to give you information on community programs that could save you money and benefit your loved one. 

Even while dealing with your role as a caregiver, you may also need to take action to make your own retirement plans.  Use the tabs at the top of this article to find links to hundreds of articles about retirement planning, medical issues, and more.

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

How to Avoid Caregiver Burnout

Are you the primary caregiver for a sick, elderly or disabled spouse or relative in your home?  For many Baby Boomers, care giving is a loving act of kindness.  You may even appreciate the opportunity to spend time with a loved one in their final years.  In other cases, you may feel overwhelmed, but realize that you are only one in the family who is able to take on this responsibility.  Regardless of the reason you are a caring for someone in your home, it is not easy.

While you may be happy and willing to take on the responsibility for someone else, you also need to pay attention to your own needs and take care of them.   After all, if you become ill or collapse from exhaustion, you cannot help someone else.

Caring for the Caregiver

Pay attention to yourself.  Make sure you are getting enough sleep, that you are eating enough and that you are not feeling exhausted or run-down.

Think HALT.  This means do not let yourself become too hungry, angry, lonely or tired.  If you do, you are likely to become depressed, irritable or angry.  You could lash out at other members of your family, including the loved one who is in your care.  In extreme cases, this has even led to elder abuse.  You do not want this to happen to you.

Reach out to others for help.  Find out what resources are available to you.  Are there relatives who can give you a break once in a while?  Even getting a day off once a week, or a weekend off once a month can make a huge difference.  Does your city offer free or low-cost adult day care programs?  Does a nearby nursing home offer respite care or temporary care for the elderly or disabled?  These services can fill in the gaps when you do not have other family members who are able to help.

If there are problems, discuss them with your loved one's doctor.  When my mother, who has dementia, became angry, paranoid and difficult to deal with, my father, sister and brother-in-law discussed her behavior with her physician.  He prescribed an anti-depressant and almost immediately my mother's behavior improved.  Do not keep new symptoms to yourself.  Doctors may be able to help more than you think.

Do not isolate yourself.  Keep up your friendships.  Get out of the house and spend time with others as often as you can.

If your faith is important to you, maintain your religious affiliations.  Participate as often as possible.  Pray. You will benefit from the spiritual support and, sometimes, other members of your church can be helpful.

Treat yourself once in awhile to something you enjoy, whether it is a long bath, a funny movie, or a stroll around the neighborhood.  Keep up a few relaxing hobbies, such as reading your favorite books, needlework, or painting.  If possible, take an occasional short trip. 

Let go of any feelings of guilt.  You are not responsible for the health problems of your loved ones.  You deserve a good life, too.  Enjoy it to the best of your ability.

Resources for Caregivers:

If you are looking for additional help, contact these organizations:

Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 or at
Family Caregiver Alliance at

You may also be interested in reading:

Senior Living in a Med Cottage or Granny Pod
Alzheimers Symptoms, Risk Factors and Treatment Options
Avoid Grapefruit When Taking Medications
Helping Caregivers Survive the Holidays

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Help For Caregivers - Reduce Caregiver Stress

If you are a Baby Boomer who is caring for elderly relatives in your home there are times, especially during the winter holidays, that may be especially stressful. 

In addition to being a caregiver for a senior citizen in your family, you may still have children living in your home.  If you do, they may expect holiday decorations, gifts and special meals that you feel they expect you to prepare.  If your children are adults, they may still assume you will put on the traditional holiday events they loved as children. 

In other cases, adult children may want you to come visit them and spend time with your grandchildren or other family members. 

All of these conflicting demands on your time can make your role as caregiver for an elderly parent or relative seem like a particularly heavy burden during the holidays.

While you may not be able to eliminate all of the stress that you are feeling as a caregiver, there are steps you can take to minimize your stress so you can actually enjoy your holidays and the time you spend with the rest of your family.

How to Reduce Caregiver Stress

Below are a few actions you should take, if possible, to relieve the stress you are experiencing.

Talk to your other family members and ask them to help you out.  If they want your home to be decorated, ask them to do it, especially if you still have teenagers or young adults living at home.  Heap praise on them, even if their efforts do not quite measure up to what you have done in the past.

Do not be a martyr, if you can avoid it.  For example, if there is a special event you want to attend, such as a child's school performance or dinner at a relative's home, do not feel that you will never be able to go.  Whenever possible, make the necessary arrangements.  Here are some ways you can manage that:

   * Ask friends or other family members if they can sit with your elderly relative for a few hours. 
   * Call an agency and see if you can temporarily hire a paid caregiver. 
   * Contact local nursing homes and see if they have a respite program where you can leave your family member for a few days and give yourself a break.  These respite programs are especially helpful when you want to take a trip to visit other family members.

See what services are available in your community to help you.  If you are feeling overwhelmed at of the year, call your local senior center and ask if they have an adult day care program.  Many communities offer these services for a very low fee.  Often elderly adults who suffer from dementia, depression, and other mental and physical problems really enjoy these adult daycare programs because of the opportunity it gives them to meet other senior citizens, while working on arts and crafts with their new friends.  In fact, these programs have been shown to significantly lift the spirits of many seniors.  Just as important, they give caregivers the time they need to take care of themselves.

Do not feel as though you need to use any free time you carve out to care for everyone else in your family.  Instead, when you get help, spend at least part of the time taking care of yourself.   Get your nails or hair done.  Sign up for a yoga or exercise class.  Socialize with friends.  Take a nap.  Read a novel.  Caregivers need to take time to energize themselves.  If they don't, they will eventually discover that they are too overwhelmed to care for anyone else.  Put yourself first every chance you get.

Take advantage of all the local services you can.  For example, if you are hosting a holiday dinner in your home, feel free to order a precooked meal.  Other services you should check out are grocery delivery, dry cleaning pick up, online banking, mail order prescriptions, etc.  Set up your life so that you need to do as few mundane errands as possible.

Finally, make sure you get enough sleep.  Do not get up before dawn or stay up after everyone else has gone to bed in order to clean your house, wrap Christmas presents, prepare meals or do anything else.  Your sleep is more important than these chores.

If you want to be able to care for anyone else, you need to care for yourself.  Otherwise, you may end up sick and in need of a caregiver, too.  This is definitely a risk we take when we spend too much time putting others ahead of ourselves all the time.  You are important, too!

You may also be interested in reading:

Planning for Long Term Medical Care
Patient Safety in the Hospital Near You
Aging and Tips to Prevent Hip Injuries
Living with your Kids

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