Providing regular care for seniors, whether it is for a family member or in a professional capacity, can be a very stressful task. Older adults that need daily assistance carrying out routine chores and activities rely on caregiver support to continue living at home, and be able to maintain an independent lifestyle.
Caregiving can certainly be a rewarding undertaking, but it can also have its challenges and difficulties. With a steadily increasing age of the population in Canada, more and more people are providing caregiver support for an aging relative. It has also opened up a multitude of caregiver jobs for personal support workers. Making a difference in another person’s life can be very satisfying, but it can also cause frustration, guilt, anxiety, and stress.
What is Caregiver Stress?
Caregiver stress is actually quite common and often comes as the result of the emotional and physical strain required to provide regular care and support for another human being. In many cases, caregivers have to make themselves readily available for a potential crisis or emergency. It can also depend on the level of support that is required by the older adult receiving care, to determine how much stress is likely to result.
For seniors with limited mobility, or progressing cognitive decline, the effort required for effective care is much greater. Family members that need to provide constant care for an elderly parent can feel overwhelmed with the time and exertion needed for the task. It can soon feel like there is no longer any time left for oneself to focus on personal needs, work, hobbies, and social activities.
The same can be true for professional caregivers that may be dealing with difficult, stubborn, or demanding personalities. Effective stress management is essential for all caregivers in order to continue to provide helpful support and assistance.
Symptoms of Caregiver Stress
Caregiving duties can sometimes be so consuming that caregivers are not even aware of the heavy pressure and stress they are facing. Some signs of caregiver stress to look out for, may be:
- Chronic fatigue
- Short fuse, or becoming easily agitated
- Noticeable fluctuations in weight
- Sleep problems
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Becoming socially secluded
If you find that you are experiencing some or all of these symptoms it may be time to take a step back, reassess, and make the necessary adjustments. For family caregivers this could include seeking the assistance of a professional home caregiver a couple times a week. For professional caregivers, to reduce stress it is a good idea to take a break or a vacation, change routines, or cut back on shifts if possible.
Managing Caregiver Stress
Every caregiver situation is different, but there are some general tips and suggestions available to help minimize stress to deliver more effective caregiver support.
Some useful approaches to managing caregiver stress, might include:
- Set realistic objectives
- Don’t neglect your health
- Exercise empathy
- Change it up
- Explore resources
- Seek assistance
Set Realistic Objectives
One of the most prevalent ways caregivers can get stressed out is trying to do too much or meet unreasonable expectations. It is much more helpful to focus to the things you are good at, rather than get stressed about the aspects home care than you may struggle with.
It can be helpful to make a list and lay out goals and objectives in an organized way to get a better idea of what is possible. You can also make a list of daily goals, tasks, and activities to keep the whole situation more manageable before things begin to spiral out of control.
Focus on Health
Caregivers often get so busy taking care of others that they forget to focus on their own health needs. It is impossible to provide a sufficient level of care for another person if your own health is in decline.
Be sure to get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and engage in social activity. Mindful breathing practices are also very helpful for reducing stress and maintaining health.
It can be beneficial to try to put yourself in the shoes of the person you are caring for. Considering how frustrating it might be dealing with physical and mental decline, that make what were once ordinary tasks seem daunting.
Change it Up
Switch up routines to inject new life into the caregiving scene. Stagnant home care practices can lead to tedium and resentment on both sides.
Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of other family members or friends that may be willing to pitch in and help out. The more assistance the better, and it helps to bring a variety of skillsets and demeanors into the situation.
For family caregivers, the option for professional home care assistance is never far away. Respite caregivers can provide family caregivers with necessary breaks to recharge and refresh.