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

Monday, April 18, 2022

Self-Care for Caregivers of Elderly Family Members

 Millions of Americans, as well as people around the world, find themselves caring for an elderly relative.  What makes this even more difficult is that caregivers are frequently not young adults, themselves. Often, the caregivers are people in their 50s, 60s or 70s who still have a living parent, sibling or other relative who needs care and regular attention. In addition, they could be part of the "sandwich generation," which means they might also still be supporting a young adult child. Unfortunately, this means the caregivers may also have their own health issues and problems which they need to deal with.

So what can you do to survive years of caregiving for another person?  Practicing self-care is essential if you want to preserve your own health. It is important to remember that you cannot do a good job of taking care of someone else, if you are not taking care of yourself.  

As a result, this month's guest post is from Jenn Walker, who has put together some terrific ideas on how to take care of yourself, while caring for someone else at the same time.   Her guest post is below:

Caring for Elderly Family Members at Home

by Jenn Walker

Caregiving is a demanding role on its own, but it can become even more challenging when you are responsible for the care of an elderly family member. In some cases, elderly family members may require long-term care which eats up a lot of your personal time. This can place a significant strain on both your personal life and your relationship with the family member who is in need of care. Still, there are ways to make caregiving easier for everyone involved. 

In this article, we will discuss some of the best ways to reduce caregiver stress, as well as how to make your elderly family member as comfortable as possible. From helpful mental health practices to respite care, there are more than enough ways to be an effective caregiver for your loved one without destroying your own health and peace of mind.

Educate Yourself on Caregiving

Family caregivers are often thrown into the role without any substantial caregiving experience, leading to immense stress as they figure out how to care for their elderly family member. Whether you have been a caregiver for a few days or a few months, online caregiving resources can be a great way to educate yourself about caregiving best practices. Some in-home care agencies also offer educational services which will help you become a more effective and confident caregiver.  You may find it helpful to take a short two or three week class from one of these agencies before taking on the responsibility for caring for your loved one, or you may want to hire an outside agency for a few weeks until you feel prepared to handle things on your own. 

Make the House Comfortable

As you learn the basics of caregiving, it is important to make the house as comfortable as possible for your elderly family member. Depending on their situation, a senior family member may have limited mobility or persistent discomfort which makes daily life more complicated than it was before. Whether they need additional handrails throughout the house, or furniture which is easier to get in and out of, accommodating those needs will make them more comfortable and make long-term care much more bearable.

You can find a large selection of home safety equipment online (Ad) which will meet the specific needs of your loved one, whether they need bars or a seat in the shower, a safety rail for the toilet, a portable wheelchair ramp, a lift chair, adaptive eating utensils or other safety equipment.  You can find all these items, and more, online and make your home a safer, more comfortable place for your loved one. (Ad)  These items might also make your life easier, as a caregiver.  The more the patient can do for themselves, the less work for you. 

Find a Balance Between Caregiving and Your Personal Life

Caregiving can put a lot of mental and physical stress on caregivers, as it often requires them to shirk many of their personal responsibilities for the sake of their patient’s care. Many family caregivers cannot abandon all of their family and personal responsibilities, however, so it is important to find some kind of balance between your personal life and your caregiving tasks for your loved one.

 If your elderly family member’s situation allows it, it can be beneficial to designate specific times for caregiving which will allow you to work or handle other responsibilities in the meantime. That way, you can still hold a job or handle other responsibilities, while also ensuring that your family member gets the care they need.

Seek Help From the Whole Family

When you are caring for an elderly family member, it is vitally important to remember that you are probably not the only person in the family who can provide caregiving assistance. If you are in a long-term care situation, calling on other family members can take significant strain off you while ensuring that the family member who is in need of care still gets the help they need.

Depending on how many family members you can coordinate with, you could work in shifts with other relatives so all of the necessary care responsibilities are evenly distributed. Whether everyone chooses a specific day or you alternate each month, it will lessen the personal stress of caregiving and bring your family closer together in the long run.

Find Respite Care Services

If your caregiving responsibilities have placed an unbearable amount of stress on your life, respite care services are an excellent choice for assistance. With in-home respite care, a professional caregiver provides all of the caregiving your elderly family member requires while you take time to relax and manage your personal life. Temporary respite care within a nursing home is also an option, which allows your senior family member to stay in a facility centered on their care while you spend a few days away from them.  This can be very helpful if you need to travel and cannot leave your family member home alone.  

Your elderly family member deserves the care they need, but you also deserve to have some balance and serenity in your life. Long-term caregiving isn’t always easy, but with the proper resources, it doesn’t have to become an undue burden.

About the Author

Jenn Walker is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast, and avid beachgoer operating out of Southern New Jersey.

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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

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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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