When you’re caring for an elderly, frail parent or loved one, it is important to understand and manage stress. And, caregiving can be very stressful. Even when you know you love the person and want to help, caregiving can stress you out. Managing stress can make your life much easier.
It’s OK to realize that:
- You care a great deal.
- You want the best for your loved one.
- And, sometimes the stress makes you want to scream!
All three are true.
What can you do when you’re ready to scream?
Here are some suggestions for managing stress:
- Take a few minutes to get away from the pressure of the current situation. Take a short walk, go into another room, go for a drive. Go somewhere by yourself to decompress and take stock of the situation.
- Take a quick inventory: What’s driving you crazy? What is essential for you to do? Are there areas where you can back off or reduce your workload? Does your loved one push your buttons, or trigger stress in you? Many of us still have old buttons or triggers, even after therapy and after decades. It helps just to acknowledge it. Are you taking care of yourself?
- Parcel out tasks and delegate. If you and others involved can identify specific issues and tasks to be handled, you can then assign specific tasks to different people. This is the “chunk it down” principle. When things are defined this way, it is easier to delegate and the problems seem much less overwhelming (because you have just taken a big step in managing stress).
- Decide what is essential for you to do – and not do. Look to see if there are other family members or friends who can pick up some of the load, and handle specific tasks. See if there are some health care activities that might be covered by Medicare or Long Term Care Insurance.
- Identify what you will do differently to take care of yourself. As a caregiver, you need to be supported. You need care and nourishment. Otherwise, you will deplete your reserves. What are some nice things you can do for yourself. Perhaps it’s impossible to take that trip to Paris that you’ve really wanted. But, you can probably do something fun with friends or other family members, treat yourself to a massage, do a long lunch at your favorite restaurant, or “hole up” with popcorn and your favorite movie.
- Build your support network. Seek out trusted friends and family members who will agree to be part of your support network. Talk with them about what you need. You may have a friend who is a good listener, and will be a “shoulder to cry on.” Someone else might help you analyze options, or help you with advocacy strategies.