4 Tips for Overcoming Caregiver Stress

Family Caregivers, You Don’t Have To Do It Alone

Throughout the state of New Jersey, friends, neighbors, and relatives are providing care for older or disabled people. Many of these are family caregivers: spouses, adult children, or grandchildren are caring for their loved ones. There are more than 44 million unpaid caregivers in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Most of us will find ourselves in the role of family caregiver at some point in our lives. Being a family caregiver can be rewarding. Caregivers say they enjoy helping people, they like knowing they’re doing something good for their loved one, and enjoy feeling needed. Even though caring for an older family member is rewarding, it can also take a physical and mental toll on the caregiver. Many may be still at the height of their career and are raising young children while also caring for their loved one. Others may be older themselves and have their own set of health issues while caring for their spouse at the same time. It’s important for these family caregivers to note: help is available—you don’t have to go it alone.

These 4 tips will help combat caregiver stress:

1. Ask for Help…and Accept It. When people offer to help, take them up on the offer and be specific with your request. For example, your friend Sue asks generally, “let me know if there’s anything you need.” Say, “Oh, thank you. Would you mind taking Mom to the doctor next Tuesday at 4:00pm?” By being specific, the person offering to help has a clear idea of what the task is. If you hadn’t said anything, Sue would simply have gone back to her life, waiting for you to call. If she can’t do the task on a certain day, have another request prepared; make a list and ask several friends or relatives who are willing to help.

2. Know the signs of caregiver stress. If you experience any of these, you probably need help:

  • Do you feel overwhelmed?
  • Are your sleep patterns disruptive?
  • Are you experiencing weight fluctuations?
  • Do you constantly feel tired or exhausted?
  • Have you lost interest in doing things you used to enjoy?
  • Do you get angry or irritated more easily?
  • Do you feel anxious much of the time?
  • Do you feel sad?
  • Are you getting more body pains and headaches?
  • Are you abusing alcohol or drugs?

3. Take Advantage of External Help. Besides family and friends, there are a wide variety of services available to family caregivers. Your local Mercer or Burlington County New Jersey Office on Aging is a great place to start to learn of programs and opportunities to provide such help.

Some options to explore include:

  • Transportation services for seniors
  • Meals on Wheels
  • Nursing or Physical Therapy Services
  • Non-medical home health care, such as Visiting Angels, to help with personal and hygiene care, meal preparation, housekeeping, errands and shopping as well as companionship
  • Home modification to make it easier for your loved one to perform daily tasks
  • Respite care, adult day-care centers, short-term care facilities to give family caregivers a break

4. Take Care of Yourself. It’s so important to take care of yourself. Do something you enjoy every week. Be physically active, watch your diet, and get proper sleep. Maybe even join a support group of fellow caregivers. Your health and mental well-being are important for those you are caring for!