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Managing Caregiver Stress

23 Nov 2017

Strategies, Resources and Respite Care Options

There are a number of ways that you can manage stress, from problem-solving and learning to deal effectively with your caregiving tasks, to making connections with support resources such as respite care and taking time for yourself. This is most important - take care of yourself. You are of no use to yourself or your family member/friend if you don’t. It is your right to pursue good health and wellness. 

These are some healthy ways you can deal with stress:

  • Sleep, Eat and Exercise (SEE). Get enough rest. If it means enlisting the help of someone else to assist the person you care for while you get some sleep, do it. Respite care services are available through many community organizations to assist with this.

  • Set aside time for yourself. Write it down in your appointment book or calendar, or whatever you use to organize your day. Build it into your day as a priority – self-care is not a luxury, it is an absolute necessity. During this time, do something you enjoy, exercise, meditate, read or do anything else that you want. Above all, do not feel guilty for doing so. You work hard and deserve a break. Find resources to care for your family member or friend while you take time out. The CHATS Adult Day Program, Caregiver Relief and other respite care services can help.

  • Set limits with friends, family and the person you are caring for. It’s okay to say no. If what someone is asking you to do will interfere with your time for yourself, say no.

  • Accept your feelings. Feeling frustrated or angry about your responsibilities or your family member or friend is normal. It does not mean that you are a bad person or bad caregiver.

  • Find a friend, family member or counselor that you can confide in. Find someone you feel you can talk to open and honestly.

  • Educate yourself. Learn as much as you can about the illness of the person that you are caring for. Organizations such as the Alzheimer Society, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Parkinson Foundation of Canada, and others can provide you with illness-specific information and support that will help you understand and respond to the changes that are taking place in the person you are caring for.

  • Help is not a four letter word. Ask for it. Give people concrete suggestions on ways that they can help you like cleaning the house, grocery shopping, getting to doctors appointments and anything else you might need to get done. Respite care can take many forms, find the ones that are most beneficial to you.

  • Communication, communication, communication. Communicating with the person you are caring for is not always easy, especially when they have dementia or when there’s a history of “bad blood”. Asking your family member or friend how they’re feeling today or what they might need you to do for them, rather than just doing what you think they need, can go a long way in showing that you value their autonomy. It’ll also enhance your effectiveness in providing appropriate and compassionate care. When there has been a history of “bad blood” and it cannot be resolved through your own efforts or with professional help, it may be necessary to look at alternate caregiving arrangements.

  • Humour is the best medicine. Look for the humour in a difficult situation. Lighten up and accentuate the positive. Share a laugh with a friend or family member.

  • Find out about and use respite care and community-based services. In-home health and personal care, adult day programs, short-stay respite care services, caregiver support groups, lending libraries…you name it. It’s there for you. Ask us for more information on services and resources in your area. [Link to Programs, Services and Fees page]

  • Accept that there are events that you cannot control. Take a reality check of your personal situation, especially if you’re family member or friend has a progressive or terminal disease such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or terminal cancer.

  • Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself and take it one day at a time. There is only so much you can do in a day. Be honest with yourself about your capabilities. Set small, achievable goals for yourself. Don’t try and do too much, or you’ll feel like you didn’t accomplish anything.

  • Be forgiving. Physical and mental illness takes an incredible toll on one’s perceptions and how they express themselves. Frustrations from cognitive and physical limitations, as well as dependency, can make anyone say things or behave in ways they don’t mean. It’s often the disease that is speaking, not them.