By David Huckabee
Wouldn’t it be nice if once we were dealing with one large stress in life, all the other stressors simply disappeared or at least waited their turn? Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. For caregivers, the stresses associated with caring for a loved one who is dealing with any serious illness does not happen in a vacuum. The stress associated with work, finances, family relationships, traffic, and life in general keep coming. Not only that, but they can often seem magnified in the face of our already difficult caregiving responsibilities.
While I do not know of any magic spell that can eliminate the stress from a caregiver’s life, we at the Alzheimer’s Association do offer some tips that have been shown to work at making the stress level manageable. Here are a few tips for your consideration.
1. Ask for help. It sounds so simple and yet it is often one of the most difficult things for adults to do. Pride, fear, and a host of other factors keep us from asking for help when we need it. The result of this is that we wait until we are so overburdened that help becomes much more difficult to give.
2. Get organized and stay organized. If we don’t know exactly what needs to be done, then the smallest tasks can feel overwhelming. Make to-do lists. Check off tasks as they are complete. What tasks can someone else do for you to lessen your own stress? Your neighbor keeps asking what she can do to help. Give her something concrete to do. She will feel better and you will have one fewer thing to do before you can rest.
3. Take care of yourself. Too many of us (I count myself among the guilty) put off our own needs while we are engaged as caregivers. We skip our own doctor’s appointments, we eat on the run, and we go without quality sleep. Unfortunately, what seems like a noble use of our time and resources can have serious consequences. Ask yourself the hard question. Who could (or would) step in if I got so sick that I could no longer function as a caregiver? Then do whatever you can to prevent that from happening.
4. Taking care of you also means taking time for you. Try to carve at least a few minutes out of each day to do something you know relaxes you. Yoga, tai chi, listening to music, going for a walk… the list of possibilities goes on and on. The important thing is to make sure it happens.
5. Watch for signs that your stress level is getting too high. Being a caregiver is stressful. As already mentioned, there is no way to eliminate that reality. However, managing your stress is crucial for your own well-being and that of your care partner. I often find that having someone else you trust is important. We often do not recognize the signs of stress in ourselves. A trusted friend or family member can let us know that we appear to be reaching the breaking point. If you would like more information about the work of the Alzheimer’s Association Central and North Florida, please call (800) 272-3900 or contact David Huckabee at firstname.lastname@example.org.