Caring for someone who is living with a serious and/or chronic illness can be overwhelming. Serious illnesses like cancer, heart disease, stroke, or chronic lower respiratory disease (to name a few) often result in chronic conditions that might never cease. Unfortunately, these ailments can require daily and constant assistance, requiring around-the-clock care. The responsibilities of caregiving, compounded by the pressures of maintaining a family and professional life, can naturally lead to stress.
It is well-documented that stress has ripple effects, trickling out from the caregiver, to the care recipient and permeating through family-life, work-life and social-life. Stress can manifest itself in emotional and physical ways for both the caregiver and the care recipient.
Here are a few (immediate) things caregivers can do to ease the effects of stress:
Prioritize time for yourself
Despite what you might think, this is a selfless act. Taking a break from caregiving, even if just for an hour, can help you feel refreshed and fortified, making you better able to tackle the day-to-day stress of being a full-time caregiver. Schedule activities like reading a book, enjoying the outdoors, or visiting with friends who can offer positive reinforcement and support.
Practice healthy habits
Eat balanced meals, prioritize sleep and connect with your doctor about any continuing problems. As they say: put on your own oxygen mask first.
Know your limits
You can’t be everything for everyone—nor should you be. Take advantage of local resources that can provide physical, emotional, and psychological support to you as a caregiver.
Ask for help
Don’t stew in feelings of isolation, anger or frustration. You are not alone in your experience. It’s normal to these things. Reach out to local support groups or a counselor. Having a group of peers who understand what you’re going through, or someone who can offer unbiased advice can provide peace of mind.
Plan for the future
Of course, it is impossible to know what may happen in the future, but you can always plan ahead for likely scenarios. Utilize professionals who can help you plan for legal, financial, or long-term health issues before they materialize. Prepare yourself for the possibility that your care recipient’s status may change, and you may not be able to help any further. If necessary, seek guidance for end-of-life issues
We can help if your struggling with:
- Feeling overwhelmed, lonely or isolated
- Trouble balancing work, family and your caregiving responsibilities
- Navigating the healthcare system, finding available resources
- Stress-related physical conditions, such as gastrointestinal problems or insomnia
- Anger (sometimes leading to physical violence)
- Dissatisfaction with life
It can become difficult to continue providing quality care as the demands on caregivers’ time and energy increases. It becomes increasingly important for caregivers to connect with a sympathetic support network during these times.