Caregivers Need Stress Relief

Caregiving is perceived by non-caregivers as thoughtless work requiring no effort or participation. Caregivers stay home, give medication reminders, and complete common domestic tasks while enjoying their favorite afternoon soap opera, right? Wrong! Caring for the frail, ailing, and disabled is a grueling task repeated daily with limited sleep. Monotonous labor intensive schedules cause physical and emotional stress. Constantly answering demands of care-recipients leaves no time for self-care. Balancing work schedules and doctors’ appointments is almost impossible. Worrying about the welfare of a loved-one and having no one to discuss the possible devastating outcome leaves a mind heavy and drained of hope. No one cares about a caregiver’s anguish and suffering. Their health is no concern as long as non-caregivers can continue their uninterrupted lives.  

Caregivers need adequate stress relief and dependable support systems in order to perform daily functions effectively. Depression, mental breakdowns, and aggression are all results of an overworked caregiver. Endless days and long nights allow no sleep. Caregiving duties are continuous and rarely end at a specific time. There’s no TGIF or end-of-day routine. Weekdays and weekends blend together.   

When are caregivers given the opportunity to de-stress and rest? A break is a rare instance when a family member volunteers to watch the care-recipient for a few hours and the caregiver sneaks away for a little alone time. These few hours are usually spent worrying or wondering what other daily tasks need to be completed. Sadly, caregivers often don’t receive relief from their hectic schedules. Care continues until the care-recipient is satisfied or has fallen asleep. Completion may take minutes, hours, or an entire day.

Caregivers providing in-home care for loved-ones don’t have consistent work schedules and are unable to make “after work” plans. They live and sleep in their workplace. Relentless hours and limited sleep will break even the strongest person. Caregivers are expected to carry on with a smile without inconveniencing onlookers. Their crying episodes, social isolation, and anger outbursts are considered ridiculous. How can staying at home caring for one person be so stressful? You need to get yourself together! Oh you would rather put him/her in a nursing home? How can you be depressed? You’re overreacting! These are questions and statements expressed by family and friends to stressed caregivers.  

Caregivers understand the demands and struggles of caregiving. These forgotten heroes need stress relief in order to maintain sanity and provide consistent quality care. A simple telephone call from a friend or relative allowing a caregiver vent time is sometimes all that’s needed. Refusing and ignoring their requests for help is narrow-minded and selfish. Without stress relief, caregivers cannot adequately care for patients. Lack of focus and physical exhaustion hinder completion of daily tasks. Denying help results in emotional breakdowns. Constant worry of grim medical outcomes causes depression and anxiety. These conditions are treated with an anti-anxiety medication prescription. The caregiver has now become the care-recipient. Caregivers’ anxieties, depressions, and stress are preventable by volunteering time and offering respite care. Thank you for reading. Take care and please share! 

Non-Caregivers Don’t Realize….

Caregiving is a selfless act defining personality and morality. Only those who have walked this path can truly understand the struggles. Third-party observers try to empathize, but are unaware of the daily stress endured by the caregiver. Non-caregivers don’t realize….

1.) ….their “care for yourself” advice is falling on deaf ears. Self-care is important and caregivers should have the opportunity to rest and de-stress. However, the daily demands of caregiving can cause physical and emotional exhaustion. We’re aware of self-care’s significance, but are too tired and preoccupied to practice it.

2.) ….caregiving is not just healthcare. Financial obligations, domestic errands, meal preparation, advanced planning for family gatherings/outings, maintaining a safe home environment, and endless paperwork are daily caregiver responsibilities.

3.) ….our smiles are disguising a feeling of constant worry. Self-doubt and uncertainty adds to the overwhelming character of caregiving. Questioning judgement becomes part of our daily routine. Sleep provides little relief from anxiety and tension. The mind is unable to fully rest and is overflowing with what-if’s and did-I’s.

4.) ….the social isolation endured by caregivers. Devotion to the well-being of another involves love and sacrifice. Caregiving is demanding and allows limited time for socialization. Doctors, nurses, care-recipients, and an occasional visit from friends and family is sometimes the only “outside” contact for caregivers.

5.) ….caregiving’s financial burden. The amount of care required and long-term care funds, dictate frequentness of responsibilities. Care-recipients needing 24-hour care and lacking significant healthcare funds need unemployed caregivers with open availabilities. Those providing care are forced to live on one income in a “two” income society. Many receive no compensation for their caregiving duties and survive on the care-recipient’s limited income.

6.) ….the strain caregiving puts on marriage. Arguments manifest from lack of socialization and financial instability. Frustration incurred from caregiving is released at the expense of the spouse. Conversations about NON-caregiving activities are inexistent. A caregiver’s marriage revolves around the care-recipient.

Non-caregivers, help by volunteering your time and patience. Listen and allow us to vent. We’re aware of caregiving’s difficulties and need not be reminded of its hectic reality. Offer support through respite care and socialization. Thank you for reading! Take care!

Quick Advice for Millennial Caregivers

The “Millennial” generation has been unfairly labeled the “Me, Me, Me” generation. We’re surrounded by negative stereotypes describing our uncaring, self-centered, technology-driven personalities. If we care only for ourselves, why is the number of Millennial caregivers rising? Apparently, our personalities aren’t engrossed in self-appreciation. We ARE concerned with the health and well-being of aging or ailing loved-ones.

Young caregivers are faced with the challenges of caregiving AND creating stable households for their growing families. We’re maturing and searching for a life path while nurturing those who once cared for us. Creating a successful caregiving/life balance requires exploratory research and preliminary planning.

1.) Understand Care-Recipient’s Health Condition

Caregivers are healthcare advocates for their patients. Before or during the caregiving process, research and explore the care-recipient’s health concerns. Educate yourself on the care required for his/her current and underlying conditions. Use learned knowledge to communicate effectively with nurses and physicians. Create a care plan addressing all health concerns.

2.) Know Employer’s Policies

Many young caregivers are actively engaged in the workforce. Raising families requires dependable income. Healthcare appointments and daily errands cause conflicting schedules. Familiarize yourself with your employer’s vacation and absence policies. Research caregiving entitlements offered through local and federal governments.

3.) Create Household Budget

Often caregivers are unable to work because of the severity of the patient’s health condition or amount of required care. Households are forced to survive on one income in a “two” income society. Living on a limited income requires effective money management. Budget for savings allowance and research financial planning options benefiting your future goals. Plan now for later! Read, Caregivers, try to utilize your resources! for possible benefits available to you and the care-recipient.

4.) Accept Assistance

Devotion to the well-being of another is stressful. Avoid eventual burnout by delegating errands and caregiving duties to family and friends. Reach out to homecare agencies and research respite care options. Discuss with family the need for a support system. Caregiving is demanding and limits self-care time. Accept assistance from dependable sources. Stay healthy and provide consistent quality care for your loved-one.

5.) Don’t Forget Your Future

Caregiving is circumstantial and can be planned or spontaneous. Young caregivers usually have a “life” path before dedicating their lives to loved-ones. Don’t let caregiving eliminate your future ambitions. Try to follow your intended path. Remember, there’s life after caregiving. Plan for your future!

Millennial caregivers manage and support aging loved-ones while raising families. Their devotion leaves limited time for self-care. Avoid caregiver stress and burnout through research and advanced planning. Utilize available resources and provide quality care for your loved-one. Thank you for reading! Please share!

Caregivers, try to utilize your resources!

I’ve detailed the struggles of caregiving, but haven’t emphasized the resources available to caregivers and patients.  We’re aware of the emotional and financial struggles of caregiving, but what resources can help a caregiver create balance in their seemingly unpredictable, erratic environment?

1.)  Government Programs

Caregiving can be financially draining for both the caregiver and patient.  Homecare costs are expensive!  Seek financial assistance through government programs such as Medicaid.  Some states offer waiver programs to assist with caregiving costs.  Counties have departments dedicated to the aging or disabled.  Many seniors are eligible for a “tax freeze” on their property taxes.  Can you receive compensation for providing caregiving services?  Take advantage of ALL government funded programs.  You and your loved-one are entitled to those benefits.  Not sure what you qualify for?  Visit BenefitsCheckUp and determine your eligibility for offered benefits. 

2.)  Veteran’s Benefits

Is the care-recipient a veteran or spouse of a veteran?  He/she could be receiving aid for homecare from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  Veterans or their spouses could be entitled to annual property tax deductions.  Local governments may offer adult daycare for our American heroes.  They served our country, let our country help them!

3.)  Homecare Services

Finding and hiring a reputable homecare agency is challenging and expensive.  The amount of paperwork can deter the most organized person.  When searching for dependable homecare services, research independent caregivers.  Many retired registered nurses offer paid caregiving services.  Care.com allows you to locate local caregivers and read summaries of their qualifications, availabilities, and services.  

4.)  Meal Preparation

Caring for a loved-one involves A LOT of meal preparation.  Planning daily meals is time consuming, especially if the patient has specific dietary needs.  Research available meal programs by contacting your local municipality.  Meals on Wheels America is one organization offering delivered meals to housebound seniors.

5.)  Technology

Integrating technology into homecare is beneficial for both the caregiver and patient.  If your loved-one doesn’t require 24-hour care and can live somewhat independently, an in-home monitoring system may be appropriate for your caregiving situation.  Observe their routine via cell phone, tablet, or computer while you’re home, working, or running errands.

6.)  Support

Instating a dependable support system is vital when caregiving.  It decreases stress and helps eliminate caregiver burnout.  Delegate daily tasks to willing family members and friends.  If help is offered, TAKE ITFeeling stressed and need to vent?  Join an online caregiver support group.  Chat with and express your concerns to other caregivers.  Knowing you’re not alone during your journey is calming.  Support groups provide a platform for asking questions and receiving insightful responses to caregiving questions. 

Sometimes you choose to be a caregiver and sometimes caregiving chooses you.  Whatever your unique circumstance, know you’re not alone.  Provide you and your loved-one with deserved help by utilizing offered resources.  Please share!  Thank you and take care!   

Why do I feel guilty….caregiver guilt?

You became a caregiver to give your loved-one unconditional love, support, and quality care within the comforts of home.  Your daily devotion enables them to live a more meaningful, joyful life.  You absorb ALL of the stress from the current complex situation.  The mental and physical exhaustion is depleting your own health, but you still smile.  Socializing is limited, but isolation is in surplus.  Why do caregivers expose themselves to such a stressful, unpredictable environment?  We care about the welfare of others and believe our participation in their lives will create nurturing relationships.  We give hope to an otherwise hopeless situation.  Providing an ailing loved-one with a fulfilled life is rewarding, but do we care too much?  Is there such a thing as caring too much?

We caregivers have very nurturing, caring, independent mentalities.  These mind-sets wreak havoc on our health and create unsatisfactory care environments.  Caregiving is mentally and physically draining. Most of us have suffered from caregiver stress and burnout.  It’s an emotional roller-coaster!  What emotions surface while caregiving?  Anger, sorrow, happiness, love, fear, and surprise are just a few emotions encountered by caregivers. The most mentally exhausting emotion during my caregiving journey was guilt.  I was devoting my life to the happiness and well-being of a loved-one.  Why did I feel guilty?

After her second stroke, my grandmother received all nutrition and hydration through a feeding tube.  She couldn’t eat or drink by mouth, only via peg-tube.  How could I possibly eat anything in front of this wonderful lady?  I felt guilty eating because she wasn’t able to indulge in the foods she once found so delicious.  I ate many meals at the kitchen counter, in a location not visible to her baby blue eyes.

My grandmother was left bed-bound after suffering two strokes between the ages of 73-78.  She was unable to eat, stand, or complete any daily tasks. She was completely dependent on me….for EVERYTHING.  This once independent woman was now dependent on an 18 year old!  The irony, in previous years I was her dependent!  Again, guilt surfaces and shows its ugly face.  My mind is overwhelmed with WHY, WHY, WHY?

  • Why did this healthy woman have multiple strokes? 
  • Why is this master of culinary arts unable to eat the food she loves?
  • Why did this kind, sweet, and giving lady get such a “raw deal” in life?

I felt guilty because I was healthy.

Heart failure ended my grandmother’s life.  As a caregiver for an elderly loved-one, I knew my responsibilities would end, but not exactly when or how.  It’s frightening trying to be prepared for the unexpected.  When she passed I was overwhelmed with guilt. Again, my mind was flooded with questions. 

  • What did I do wrong?  She was fine last night when I put her into bed.
  • Could I have prevented this?
  • Maybe I should have done this instead of that?
  • Did I overlook some detail that caused this?
  • Did my grandmom die because of something I did or missed?

Caregiver guilt exists during and after caregiving.  Because of faithful devotion to helping others, we caregivers create an unhealthy emotional environment for ourselves.  We can’t accept certain terms and outcomes.  Our mind is geared for success not failure.  Please share this post to prepare other caregivers for their emotional but rewarding journey.  Thank you and good luck!