Reducing Caregiver Stress
by Andrea Raths, RN
A healthy caregiver is the best gift you can give your loved one.
Juliana Chapeau, the social worker for the state-licensed adult day center at The Salvation Army Lakewood Temple Corps in Maplewood, Minn., observes, "More often than not, I find caregivers simply need permission to express their own needs and not feel guilty! Opening the door to that discussion allows me to have a frank talk about the importance of self care.
"One of my mantras is, ‘Your loved one is only going to do as well as you're doing!' Shining a light on the serious consequences of caregiver burnout is very eye opening and usually better received when it comes from someone who's outside the family," she continued. "We've seen multiple caregivers become ill as a direct result of ignoring their own needs, which leads to further stress for all loved ones involved."
When someone tours our facility looking for a place for their loved one to spend the day, we tell them we're here for two, equally important reasons. First, we want to provide a safe, fun, stimulating environment so their loved one to wants to come and spend the day. Second, we're here to provide education, support and community referrals to the caregivers because we know stress is real and can be deadly.
Signs of caregiver stress can vary, but here are a few:
- Do you feel like you have to do it all by yourself, yet you should be doing more?
- Have you withdrawn from family, friends and activities that you used to enjoy?
- Do you worry that the person you care for is safe?
- Do you feel anxious about money and healthcare decisions?
- Are you denying the impact of the disease your loved one has and its effect on your whole family?
- Are you feeling grief and sadness that the relationship you used to have with your loved one has changed?
- Do you get frustrated and angry with your loved one and his or her limitations?
- Is caregiving taking a toll on your mental and physical health?
If the answer is "yes" to any of these questions, you are NORMAL! However, having these feelings on a regular basis is a sure sign caregiver stress may be getting the better of you. Consider asking for help even if you think you have it all under control.
Adult day centers are a great place to start. For example, we offer a caregiver support group that meets once a month and is open to current and past family members and caregivers. In addition to providing a safe, fun environment for loved ones, we try to do all we can to make the caregiver's job easier, even providing such extras as hair care, foot care and showering (or "spa service" as we like to call it)!
Andrea Raths, RN, is director of The Salvation Army Lakewood Temple Corps Adult Day Center.