Reducing Caregiver Stress

Who is a caregiver?

You're a caregiver if you give basic care to a person who has a chronic medical condition. A chronic condition is an illness that lasts for a long period of time or doesn't go away. Examples of chronic conditions are cancer, stroke, multiple sclerosis, dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.

If you're a caregiver, you might be doing the following things for another person:  

  • Lifting
  • Turning him or her in bed
  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Feeding
  • Cooking
  • Shopping
  • Paying bills
  • Running errands
  • Giving medicine
  • Keeping him or her company
  • Providing emotional support

Why is caring for someone with dementia so hard?

The person you're caring for may not know you anymore. He or she may be too ill to talk or follow simple plans. This may make it hard for you to think of that person in the same way that you did before he or she became ill.

The person you're caring for may also have behavior problems such as yelling, hitting or wandering away from home. This behavior may make you feel angry and frustrated.

How can I tell if caregiving is putting too much stress on me?

Common signs of caregiver stress include the following:

  • Feeling sad or moody
  • Crying more often than you used to
  • Having low energy level
  • Feeling like you don't have any time to yourself
  • Having trouble sleeping or not wanting to get out of bed in the morning
  • Having trouble eating or eating too much
  • Seeing friends or relatives less often than you used to
  • Losing interest in your hobbies or the things you used to do with friends or family
  • Feeling angry at the person you are caring for or at other people or situations

In addition, you may not feel appreciated by the person you are caring for. This may add to your feelings of stress and frustration.

What should I do if I'm feeling overwhelmed and stressed?

These feelings are not wrong or strange. Caregiving can be very stressful. Because being a caregiver is so hard, some doctors think of caregivers as "hidden patients." If you don't take care of yourself and stay well, you won't be able to help anyone else.

Talk with your family doctor about your feelings. Stay in touch with your friends and family members. Ask them for help in giving care. Asking for help doesn't make you a failure.

Look for help in your community. You may start by calling the Alzheimer's Disease Association of Kern County at (661) 665-8871.

Additional Tips

  1. Get a diagnosis as early as possible
    Symptoms of Alzheimer's may appear gradually and if a person seems physically healthy, it's easy to ignore unusual behavior or you may even attribute it to something else. See a physician when warning signs are present. In doing so, you'll be able to better manage the present and plan for the future of both your loved one and yourself.

     
  2. Know what resources are available
    For your own well-being and that of the person you are caring for, become familiar with Alzheimer care resources available in your community. Call the Alzheimer's Disease Association of Kern County for a variety of resources available to you at (661) 393-8871.

     
  3. Become an educated caregiver
    Care techniques and suggestions available from the Alzheimer's Disease Association of Kern County can help you understand and cope with the challenging behaviors and personality changes caused by Alzheimer's.

     
  4. Get help! Join a Support Group 
    The support of family, friends and the community can be an enormous help. Alzheimer's Disease Association support groups are a good source of comfort and reassurance. For more information about support groups, please contact Family Services at (661) 665-8871.

     
  5. Take care of yourself
    Caregivers frequently devote themselves totally to those they care for and in the process, you may neglect your own needs. Pay attention to yourself. Watch your diet, exercise and get plenty of rest.

     
  6. Manage your stress
    Stress can cause a variety of problems from high blood pressure to depression. Note your symptoms. Find ways to relax (read a book, exercise, whatever works for you!) and talk to a physician about your symptoms.

     
  7. Accept changes as they occur
    Investigate available care options and seek support and assistance from those who care about you and your loved one.

     
  8. Complete legal and financial planning
    Consult an attorney to discuss issues related to durable power of attorney, living wills and trusts, future medical care, housing and other key considerations. Planning now will reduce stress later.

     
  9. Be realistic
    Neither you or your loved one can control many of the circumstances and behaviors that will occur. While you need time to grieve, is is also helpful to focus on positive moments and good memories.

     
  10. Give yourself credit, not guilt
    Remember, you're doing the best you can, so give yourself credit. Your loved one needs you and you are there.

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