How to Handle the Stress of Caregiving

From reading a book to spending time with a pet, simple steps can help ease the stress of caring for a loved one.

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- Posted on Apr 12, 2019

A family of three watches TV together.

Lisa Weitzman, LISW-S, is the BRI Care Consultation™ Manager of Business Development at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging

Providing care for a loved one can be rewarding in that it allows you to support and share your time with someone who is important to you. But caregiving also comes with situations that cause stress. Because challenges go hand-in-hand with caring for a loved one, you may find that it is difficult to achieve something that feels like a work-life balance. In fact, research shows that being a caregiver is “among the most stressful, emotionally burdensome and physically demanding roles a person can take on.” Sometimes, the good feelings of helping someone may ease the energy-draining emotions of caregiving. But caring for someone with a chronic illness can affect all aspects of life, from physical health and medical conditions to relationships and finances. Studies reveal that caregivers experience the lingering effects of caregiving for up to three years after the death of their loved one (Gary LeBlanc, Aftereffects of Caregiving, Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, February 15, 2011).

With the often overwhelming demands of caregiving, you may place yourself on the back burner. Considering your own needs might feel selfish when your loved one’s needs seem more urgent and immediate. Yet self-care can help you to manage – and possibly even lessen – your stress. Just as flight attendants remind you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping the person sitting next to you, you should be encouraged to take care of yourself so that you can remain in a healthy mindset to continue to care for your loved one in the manner you choose for as long as you are able.

There are numerous approaches to handling stress, and every person can find relief in his or her own way. What matters is that you carve out time in your schedule to regularly engage in the particular methods of stress relief that work best for you. You might consider any of the following:

  • Setting aside 30 minutes a day to participate in an activity that refreshes or reenergizes you, such as:
  • Exercising
  • Going for a walk
  • Reading a book
  • Playing music
  • Watching a TV show you enjoy
  • Meditating or doing yoga
  • Relaxing in a bath
  • Seeing friends or family
  • Dancing
  • Cuddling with a pet
  • Sitting back and watching the clouds or looking at the stars
  • Letting family and friends provide a helping hand. Recognize that asking for assistance is not a sign of weakness, but instead a healthy recognition that caregiving responsibilities can present long-term demands.
  • Exploring resources in the community both for you and your loved one. Whether you turn to support groups, adult day programs, home-delivered meal services, home care or peer companions, give yourself permission to utilize the services designed to support you at this exact point in your caregiving journey.
  • Communicating with your boss. Is it possible to work remotely? Could flex time be a fit for you? Does the company offer services to help you care for older loved ones?
  • Becoming your own biggest cheerleader. Remind yourself every day that you are doing your very best, and stay in a positive frame of mind.
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