These people tend to be related to or are close friends of the elderly person(s) who is no longer able to safely take care of themselves without some type of controlled guidance.
In the United States, these untrained caregivers have become responsible for approximately 80 percent of long-term care support.
What Is a Caregiver?
Caregivers are anyone who provides help to another person in need, such as an aging relative or ill spouse/partner.
Family members who take it upon themselves to become responsible for assisting an older adult tend to not identify themselves as a “caregiver.” However, understanding the entirety of what goes into this position can help create a healthy perspective over all associated demands, as well as how to receive the type of necessary support they need.
Being a Caregiver Can Be Stressful
There are a variety of gratifying rewards connected to caregiving. For most, being able to offer support to a loved one is a part of their core values and the responsibilities are welcomed.
However, despite our best intentions and understanding over the importance of taking care of an elderly family member, these initial feelings of pride can turn into:
This type of stress in caregivers can lead to changes in their own personal health, which can significantly increase if the caregiver:
- Lives with the person being cared for
- Feels isolated
- Is financially providing for the person being cared for
- Spends most of their time between work and taking care of their loved one
- Feels obligated to take care of their loved one.
Signs of Stress
Caregivers tend to become so focused on the needs of their loved one that they aren’t able to completely interpret how their own health and well-being are affected.
If the following signs attributed to stress become noticeable, it’s important that specific action is taken that benefits the mental, emotional, and physical health of the caregiver.
These signs include:
- Suddenly sleeping too little or too much
- Weight fluctuation
- Sharp mood swings
- Feeling sad
- Experiencing painful, recurring headaches
- Feeling worried, anxious, or overwhelmed.
Carrying excessive amounts of stress over a long period of time can be detrimental to the health of the caregiver, who is more likely to suffer from symptoms related to anxiety or depression.
If sleep deprivation and weight loss become normal, the risk of developing some type of medical condition like heart disease or diabetes, significantly increases.
Tips for How Caregivers Can Manage Stress
The physical and emotional demands associated with caregiving can overwhelm even the most dedicated, resilient person.
That is why it is so critical to understand what resources and tools are available that help ease the level of tension and stress experienced. If the caregiver is not able to take care of their personal health, they will not be able to effectively support their loved one.
To help manage caregiver stress:
Ask For Help
Asking for help and support from other family members does not indicate failure or incompetence. In fact, allowing others to step in and provide support can improve the primary caregiver’s ability to provide support, as they will have opportunities to step away from the situation and recalibrate.
Setting up specific roles among family members is a great way to get everyone involved, while also making sure that the person(s) being cared for gets the medical and emotional support they need.
In Oregon we are fortunate to have a free program dedicated to supporting caregivers by offering classes that can train and help understand the needs of the person that is being cared for. This is a great, free program and is available to all caregivers.
Establish Appropriate Goals
Try to break down large tasks into smaller, more approachable steps that allow smaller tasks to be addressed right away, while working toward larger goals like preparing for a medical exam or searching for a senior living community.
Saying “no” to requests that are especially draining, such as hosting holiday meals, is perfectly fine. Setting boundaries and clear expectations for yourself, for the person being cared for, and all other supporting members allows you to protect yourself from becoming exhausted or overwhelmed.
Know Your Strengths
It’s completely natural to want to offer as much support as possible, even when a particular request is outside of your capabilities. Being able to provide support in ways that align with your resources and education is the best way to ensure that all expectations are clear and that the person being cared for is actually receiving the best possible treatment.
Being honest with your abilities allows you to bring in professional support, such as the help of a senior living community or an experienced in-home nurse.
Allow a Professional Senior Living Community to Provide Help
Although the idea of placing your loved one in someone else’s care may be hard to imagine, allowing professionals to take over your caregiving services is in fact, many times the best way to provide overall support.
You can go back to being their daughter, or grandson, and enjoying special times with them, not just being their caregiver.
You are still able to connect with and help your loved one, while also giving yourself necessary space that provides mental and emotional relief.
Working with a professionally managed community that has a full-time registered nurse can give you peace of mind, knowing that your loved one is just an arm’s length away from medical support.
The staff at our senior living communities in Beaverton and Murrayhill treat each resident as a personal friend, opposed to just a resident. Come for a visit and see how things have changed over the last 20 years, retirement communities are a great place to enjoy life with others!
Each valued member of our community is afforded the right to live how they choose, meaning each person is able to schedule their day however they want, connect with loved ones throughout the week, and leave the premises.
12520 SW Hart Road
Beaverton, OR 97008
Or calling Hearthstone at Murrayhill at 503-520-0911 or stopping by at:
10880 SW Davies Rd
Beaverton, OR 97008