Caregivers Need Help

Advice for caregivers almost always includes a list of signs of caregiver stress and tips on how to address them. As well-intentioned and correct as the advice is, the unfortunate result is an actual increase in caregiver stress.

Why? Because it puts the burden of fixing the problem on someone who is already overwhelmed. Caregiving is a 24-hour a day, seven days a week job, frequently lasting for several years, that becomes more demanding as time goes on. Of course caregivers are stressed. Giving them a list of things they know they should do but can’t isn’t helpful. In fact, it confirms their sense of isolation and adds to their feeling that no one understands what it’s like to be a caregiver.

A typical list of signs of caregiver stress include the following:

Depression

Anxiety

Anger

Loss of Concentration

Exhaustion

Isolation

 

No one would willingly ignore these intense feelings. Caregivers are often dangerously overburdened and desperate for relief. They cannot overcome these issues alone.  They need your help.

 

They cannot, as advised in the usual list of advice that follows the one above, put themselves first, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy diet, meditate, go on vacation, get enough rest, and go to a caregiver support group, if they are doing it alone.

 

According to Alz. Org  “Alzheimer’s takes a devastating toll on caregivers. Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; about 40 percent suffer from depression. One in five care contributors cut back on their own doctor visits because of their care responsibilities. And, among caregivers, 74 percent report they are “somewhat” to “very” concerned about maintaining their own health since becoming a caregiver.”

 

What you can do to make a difference:

Acknowledge it takes more than one person to provide constant care. Set up and maintain a schedule of regular visits to the caregiver and the one in care in order to make sure both are doing okay. Spend the night once a month so the caregiver can enjoy some uninterrupted sleep.

Take over routine tasks like grocery shopping, vacuuming, getting the car inspected, cutting the grass, or doing the taxes. If you cook, make extra and deliver an easy to heat up meal now and then.

Spend time with the person in care so he or she is comfortable with you so the caregiver can go to her own doctor appointment, get a haircut, or simply spend a few quiet moments to herself.

Understand that someone with dementia may seem fine during your visit and confused and combative when you leave. The caregiver is not exaggerating the seriousness of the situation. Listen and allow the caregiver to vent.

Even the smallest bit of help can make an enormous difference to one who is doing the best they can to cope with a devastating illness that challenges the caregiver and the one in care every single day.

To help caregivers deal with stress, forget the lists and go to them and say, “I know this is hard, I appreciate what you are doing, and I’m here to help.”

 

 

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