July 16, 2013

By Diane Walker, RN, MS, CSA

Caregiving can be an intensely rewarding experience. Providing someone you love with personal, special love and attention can be very satisfying. But caregiving can also be very demanding and stressful. If you’re a member of the Sandwich Generation, caring for both your children and your aging parents, you might feel double the pressure.

Since July is Sandwich Generation Month,  now is a great time to talk about how to manage the demands of caregiving. Read on for our seven top tips to reduce caregiver stress.

  1. Recognize the signs. Sometimes, caregivers are too busy to even recognize the signs of impending burnout in themselves. Keep a handle on your mental health by watching out for these warning signs: anger at the person you’re caring for, social withdrawal from friends and family, sleeplessness, irritability, anxiety, depression, and nagging health problems such as headaches.
  2. Get help. Many caregivers find themselves going it alone. But caring for someone is a big job, and you shouldn’t expect to always be able to manage it by yourself. If other family members aren’t as involved as you’d like, ask them for help. (The best technique is to have a list of specific tasks you want help with already prepared.  You can either say, “Pick one or two you can do.” ; or “Can you take Mom to the doctor next week?” instead of “You never help out!”) If friends and family aren’t local, consider hiring help, even if it’s just part-time.
  3. Learn relaxation techniques. Make time to learn and use relaxation techniques in your everyday life: it can make a big impact in reducing your stress. To find one that really works for you, try several different techniques and see which appeals to you and which will fit into your lifestyle. Learn more about relaxation techniques on the Mayo Clinic’s website.
  4. Exercise. When schedules get busy, exercise is usually the first thing to go. But make a big effort to hold on to your physical activity time. You don’t have to become a gym rat to see the benefits; just staying active can have big rewards. So  do what you love and what gets you moving, whether that’s taking a daily walk, caring for a garden, or bicycling through the park with friends.
  5. Sleep. A full night’s sleep can be another thing to go when you get overwhelmed. But sleep isn’t just a luxury; it’s essential for your health and well-being. You need at least seven hours a night. If your loved one gets up at night and that is a concern for you, ask someone to take a few nights a week so you can get the rest you  need.  Having someone take on this responsibility, even if you have to hire an individual, will enable you to do caregiving longer with less injury to your health and wellbeing.  It will also help to keep a consistent sleep schedule with the same sleep and wakeup times every day.
  6. Take care of yourself. Look at it this way: you can’t be a good caregiver to someone else unless you’re a good caregiver to yourself. Visit your doctor regularly. Eat healthfully. Exercise. And make sure to take some time each week just for yourself. Doing something you love regularly, like reading, cooking, or chatting with friends on the phone, is necessary for a balanced life.
  7. Have a community. Interacting with others who are going through what you’re going through can be a huge help. Caregiver support groups can help connect you to others, as well as to caregiving resources. Look for a support group near you here.

Tags:  caregiver, stress, san antonio, home care, family