Caregivers come in all shapes, sizes, ages, life stages, experiences and cultural backgrounds. They provide care for family members, partners or friends with a variety of conditions including advanced age, disability, dementia and chronic or terminal illness.
Caregiving has its benefits. It builds strong relationships between caregivers and those receiving care, it is a way of giving to loved ones and others, it makes caregivers feel needed and good about themselves, and it brings a deeper appreciation of time, relationships, simple joys and facets of life often taken for granted. However, research points out a correlation between caregiving and stress, poor health and reduced immunity. In addition, caregivers are also at risk for depression, premature aging and higher mortality rates.
Symptoms of caregiver stress include: feeling overwhelmed or fatigued most of the time; sleeping too little or too much; gaining or losing a lot of weight; becoming easily frustrated or angry; worry, anxiety and emotional distress; headaches, pain or physical problems; loss of interest in activities enjoyed prior; and abusing alcohol, drugs or prescription medications. 3When defining stress, I often use the word “change.” Stress is a moving force and gets us up and out of bed in the morning. Stress/change turns into distress when we experience too much stress/change at once, or too much stress/change over time (chronic stress)—physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. This is the case with caregivers. Their caregiving responsibilities last for indeterminate periods of time and their lives are filled with daily stress and multiple priorities; mixed emotions; financial concerns; reduced energy, focus and concentration; and social isolation. While immersed in caregiving, caregivers often don’t realize, or take the time to recognize, how much stress they are under.
Caregiver services that provide detection, screening, education and referrals are very important for early intervention. They introduce caregivers to community services and resources, provide support, can help caregivers organize constantly changing priorities, remind caregivers to ask for help, and at times add a touch of humor to difficult times.
Over the thirty years I have worked in the healing arts and sciences as a physical therapist, individuals I worked with helped me to recognize three solutions to remaining healthy, strong and resilient when facing chronic stress and change, such as that faced by caregivers. The three solutions are:
- Increase self-awareness
- Use self-care practices
- Reconnect with what brings heart and meaning into daily life
As caregivers learn to track and become more mindful of their body, mind, emotions and soul, or life force, it will empower them and help them make more conscious decisions each day. Increased self-awareness will highlight current actions, beliefs, emotions and self-talk. This will point out what no longer serves, what withdraws energy from caregivers’ physical, mental, emotional and spiritual energy bank accounts. Increased self-awareness will also point out current actions, beliefs, emotions and self-talk that makes deposits into these energy bank accounts. Awareness helps caregivers make wiser choices and enhances their ability to respond.
Using self-care practices can involve the body, mind, emotions or life force, and may include any of the following: movement and exercise; sleep and rest; nutrition; stress and financial management; communication; relationships and social support; laughter and play; creativity; beauty, joy, and gratitude; clarifying life meaning and purpose; and spiritual connection.
Why use self-care practices? They empower caregivers and enhance their ability to manage and respond to worries, anxiety, depression, pain and other effects of caregiver stress. Self-care practices rebalance body-mind chemistry; improve sleep; enhance quality of life and heart health; and help maximize health and wellbeing. In addition, self-care practices are user-friendly and cost effective.
Reconnecting with what brings heart and meaning into daily life adds joy, beauty and gratitude to each day, and encourages a positive quality of daily living and functioning. Whenever we return to our hearts during caregiving challenges, we bring energy and buoyance to our life force. This lifts our spirits and rich deposits are made into our energy bank accounts.
These three solutions are vital aspects of managing caregiver stress syndrome through early intervention and prevention. They remind caregivers that dismissing or not paying attention to stress leads to greater problems, and that self-care is a requirement for caregivers, not a luxury.
Article source: http://www.abilities.com/community/buzz/64c-caregiver.html
His upcoming book, "It's My Life Too,When To Say Yes - When To Say No In Long Term Caregiving" is designed to teach caregivers who are taking care of their loved ones (due to an illness or disability) how to take care of themselves FIRST. If they don't learn this, they will likely suffer burnout and become as helpless as the person they are caring for.
Tune in every Tuesday at 12:00 pm, PST, for interviews with experts in the caregiving field, as they discuss topics of great interest to caregivers, which will help them avoid burnout. The call in number to listen is (480) 945 0442.
Recorded podcasts can be found at www.DaveTheCaregiversCaregiver.com after each interview date.