Over 40 million Americans serve as unpaid caregivers and a vast majority of those care for aging in place elderly relatives. The average informal caregiver also juggles at least a part-time job and manages a household along with their caregiving responsibilities. As a result, it’s not uncommon for family caregivers to experience chronic stress and anxiety that eventually place their health and wellbeing at risk. Here are several proven ways to keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed as senior caregiver.
How Chronic Anxiety Affects Family Caregivers
Although caring for an aging relative is highly rewarding, far too many family caregivers put everyone else’s health first and theirs last. Chronic stress, physical and mental fatigue, and poor lifestyle choices are common. Based on available research, here are some of the negative ways that chronic stress and anxiety affect informal caregivers:
- Accelerates the aging process
- Shortens their life span compared to non-caregivers
- More likely to experience poor health, chronic health conditions and/or disabilities
- Doubles their risk for chronic medical conditions like heart disease, cancer, heart attacks, diabetes and arthritis
As an informal caregiver stress and anxiety work as an insidious team that can induce caregiver fatigue. Once you feel overwhelmed you can find yourself caught up in an endless daily cycle that eventually leads to senior caregiver burnout.
Healthy Stress Relievers for Informal Caregivers
Thankfully, it is possible to reduce stress and anxiety levels by taking these steps:
You’re only human after all, so prioritize your responsibilities every week while focusing realistically on what you can accomplish. It’s OK to say “no” sometimes when it feels like those around you are pulling you in a hundred different directions at once. For example, tell your child’s teacher that you can’t bake cookies for their Holiday program because you’re taking care of your elderly mother. In most cases, they’ll understand.
Start a journal
Sometimes when you’re a caregiver it feels like no one is listening to you. Start a daily journal so that you can express your feelings on paper instead of holding them inside. Record in your journal specific ways that your efforts are paying off. For example, write about how happy you
and dad were today because you were able to take him to the park.
Care for yourself
Stay physically and mentally strong by taking care of yourself. Exercise is a great stress reducer, so workout by walking, practicing Yoga or swimming. Spend a few minutes each day cleansing your mind through prayer and meditation, eat nutritious meals and get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. It’s also a good idea to have a complete physical at least once a year. And when you’re feeling sick or overly tired, stay home and ask someone else to fill in.
Practice cognitive defusion
Another way to reduce caregiver stress is through the practice of cognitive defusion. That basically means “defusing”, or separating, your mind from negative thoughts. Rather than thinking negative thoughts, pretend to observe them from outside of yourself.
As an example, instead of thinking “I must be the worst caregiver there is”, change those thoughts to “There I go again believing that I’m the worst caregiver in the world.” Cognitive defusion allows you to distance yourself from unhealthy thoughts so they’re not as powerful and personal.
Take a break
Whenever you’re starting to feel overwhelmed as a senior caregiver seek outside assistance so that you can take a well-deserved break. Some possible sources of temporary relief include:
- Family members or trusted friends
- Volunteers who work with seniors
- Adult daycare
- Senior transportation and meal services
- A professional respite caregiver
Reliable In-Home Respite Care for Manatee County Seniors
When you need to take a break from caregiving contact First In Care and we’ll step in until you’ve had a chance to get recharged. As a fully licensed and insured home care agency, our highly trained respite caregivers will serve as an extended family in your loved one’s home so they can continue aging safely and comfortably in place right where they want to be. Our compassionate professionals can perform in-home duties like personal care, homemaking, companion care and even skilled nursing care.
As an added convenience all our family trusted home care services can be individually combined into an affordable package that will restore your peace of mind. To learn more about First In Care now, or to schedule a complimentary home care assessment for a senior in Manatee County, FL, today, please visit us at: www.firstincare.com!