Caregiver stress can do a number on your body without you even noticing. Don’t let it get to that point.
Let’s face it. Being a caregiver is a tough, stressful job and it’s important to manage that stress.
Why health is important as a caregiver
If you are reading this post, you’ve probably made the decision to be a caregiver for your loved one with dementia.
If you’ve made that decision – Your Health Matters!
If you don’t take care of yourself, then how are you going to take care of your loved one?
Why caregivers get stressed
Many caregivers of loved ones with dementia are in the age range of late 30s-50s. Some may have children still in the household so that’s double caregiving. Not to mention that there’s grocery shopping, house cleaning, and all the other jobs associated with being a homeowner and parent. Then you add on the stress of a full time job because many caregivers also work a full or part-time job in addition to being a caregiver. There’s also financial concerns as well.
Now, let’s add to all of the above the kinds of things you may have to take care of when you care for someone with dementia. Things like poop spread all over the bathroom, wet beds, towels or rolls of toilet paper stuffed into the toilet, or wondering if they will walk out of the house wanting to go home while you leave them alone for a few minutes to get a job done.
Please understand that I’m not saying all people with dementia do those things. It may depend upon what stage they are in and what form of dementia they have.
What are signs of caregiver stress
Feeling of being overwhelmed/worried
Tired, problems sleeping-too much, too little
Either gain or lose weight
Easily irritated, impatient, and/or angry
Lose of interest in what you used to enjoy
Sad, depressed, hopelessness, moody
Have headaches, stomach aches, body pains, other aches
Abuse of alcohol, drugs, and/or prescription meds
Mistreatment of your loved one
Neglecting own physical needs
Anxious about the future
Difficulty with daily coping
More susceptible to illnesses
During the time I was a caregiver for my mom, I gained weight and never went to the doctor for my own health (excluding the dentist and the women’s yearly checkup). Mom liked her sweets so it was too easy to get into the cookies, rolls, or other sweet things in the kitchen.
How can a caregiver stay healthy and handle stress
By eating a well balanced diet, getting proper rest, and make sure you get plenty of regular exercise.
Step away for a little while.
Have a creative hobby or some other activity to do when times are stressful. Even if it’s just for a few minutes. This is the 18th of my 19 suggestions for what to do when you find out a family member or your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia. You can get the other 18 by adding your name and email address in the box below.
stress management suggestions
Here are some suggestions for ways to manage your stress –
Writing in a journal/poetry
Needle crafts (Cross-Stitch, Knitting, Crochet)
Listen to music
Bowling, golf, other sport
Painting, drawing, coloring
Theater, improv, acting classes
Volunteer as a pet-walker
When I was taking care of Mom, I relaxed by working on this huge cross stitch design. I would work on that in the evenings while Mom watched TV or looked through old photo albums. I love to bowl and was in a league that met on Tuesday nights. It finally got to the point where I was afraid to leave Mom alone so a church member came and kept Mom company while I went bowling.
Go to support group meetings. You can contact your local Alzheimer’s Association for information on group meetings.
Solicit help from neighbors, friends, your church or other groups you may belong to. It’s tough to ask for help but sometimes you gotta swallow your pride and ask because people just don’t get it. They don’t know how they can help you or what you need. So tell them what would help you.
Caregiver stress is a serious matter. Your health and welfare is a serious matter. Take care of yourself. Be like a flight attendant. Don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself. Remember what I said at the beginning – if you don’t take care of yourself, how are you going to take care of your loved one?