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Caregiver Stress: A World Turned Upside Down

by admin on February 20, 2012


"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life…that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."Ralph Waldo Emerson

Caregiver stress is on the rise, based on the latest information from the Stress in America report. As the Baby Boomer generation ages, so will the number of elderly family members be cared for at home. In fact, the number is expected to double by 2030, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Caregivers are true heroes that go unnoticed Due to great stress, they are at risk for great chronic stress due to lack of self care.

Caregiver exhaustion is not uncommon. I have a close friend whose mother has end stage cancer. Anne is traveling every weekend to be at her mother’s side. Driving, sitting, caring for her mom all day has taken a toll on her body. Anne made sure she took time for herself this week to get a pain relief massage. “I had to get my massage today. I wouldn’t be able to help mom if I don’t take care of me.”

A huge concern with caregivers is self-care, including basics like food, water, sleep and personal time. The fact of the matter is that the caregiver must care for themselves first. It’s just like an airplane emergency. It’s no different than putting an oxygen mask in first before you place it on others.

When my father became ill with dementia, mom was overwhelmed with the new responsibilities. Through local aging programs, dad was able to attend an adult day care. A nursing school provided students an internship to work in homes for respite. This allowed mom personal time to rest and catch up on errands. Their church provided home visits for spiritual support. Mom also attended a caregiver support group to be with others going though the same stress. All of this incredible support was in a very small community.

Keep in close contact with others when under stress can caring for a loved one. Danger signs of isolation include thinking you are all alone and don’t have choices in taking care of yourself. Keep in touch with others that are going through the same stress, especially when you are caring for someone for any length of time.

Everyone deals with grief differently. Caring for a loved one with any illness can definitely be hard emotionally. I learned to cherish the moments when dad was lucid. He used to always ask me if I had taken care of things around my house. I began to look forward to him asking me questions when I used to dread getting chewed out if I hadn’t done something. I learned to appreciate every moment I had my father. This helped ease grieving the loss of my father to dementia when he was still alive.

Remember, you are not alone. There are thousands of others going through the same stress. Reach out when you need love and support to cope.

For over 25 years in the health care profession, Lisa Birnesser has studied stress relief techniques and have helped hundreds of people reduce stress in their lives. Lisa specializes in stress management coaching by helping people do what matters most every day.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Gregory McGuire February 21, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Lisa, this is so true.  So many of us feel like we have to take care of others before we do ourselves, but this is ridiculous.  This mindset will eventually cause you exhaustion, which, more than likely will lead to illness.  Who are you going to care for when you're sick?
Excellent points Lisa.  Thanks for sharing!
Gregory

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Lisa Birnesser February 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Thanks so much, Gregory. When we are in caregive mode it’s so easy to think you are an endless source of energy. Thanks for stopping by!

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Martha Giffen May 4, 2012 at 10:04 am

I watched my Mom go through a similar experience when my Daddy was diagnosed with dementia.  She didn't want help in the beginning and was so focused on him that she wasn't paying attention to her OWN health. 
It's so important to get help for the caregiver and to let them know they don't have to do it alone.  My Daddy has been gone now for over 3 years and we watched the stress of it all slowly leave my mother.  She is her vibrant self now, but others aren't as lucky.  Very timely post for all the baby boomers out there!
 

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Dale Anne Potter May 4, 2012 at 12:47 pm

This was a GREAT post Lisa, I especially needed to hear it today – having some issues this week.

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Jamie May 4, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I just truly hope that the ones taking care of the elderly are well taken care of themselves.  There will be a huge increase in demand, and I hope everyone is prepared. 

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Nisha May 4, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Great article, Lisa. I think caregiver stress is going to continue to be on the rise as the population ages. It's important for people to understand that caregiver stress is very real and also know resources to get help.

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Marie Leslie May 4, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Having support and not being afraid to tell someone when you get overwhelmed are so important in avoiding caregiver burnout.  There are some great tips here, whether you are caregiving for an elderly relative or a busy mom with young kids. Thanks, Lisa.

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Helena May 4, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Great article Lisa. I remember how much stress my mom was under when caring for her mother as well as the rest of us. She was never the same after that. It's good that there are more resources now for caregivers than there were back then. It was pretty much nursing home or nothing in the 70s.

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Jennifer May 5, 2012 at 11:49 pm

Great advice on a tough topic Lisa, thanks.  I can't imagine being in that kind of a situation.  I get "caregiver stress" just from being a single parent sometimes.  I can't imagine what it would be like to have to care for the person that raised me, and seeing that they aren't that person anymore.  Definitely essential to stay connected with others when you are in that circumstance.

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