:Q: I have been caring for my disabled husband for quite some time. There are mornings I just want to pull the covers over my head. I’m tired and stressed to the point I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up. Everyone keeps telling me I need to take care of myself but no one tells me how I am supposed to do this. Do you have any helpful hints?
A: A recent study indicated four in 10 adults in the U.S. are currently caring for a sick or elderly family member. The numbers of caregivers has increased 10 percent between 2010 and 2013 and is expected to grow as our population ages. You are not alone in your efforts or your struggles. Many caregivers willingly accept this responsibility without prior knowledge of the challenges they will face in the days, months and years to come.
One of the first steps to reduce caregiver stress is finding and utilizing all resources available to you. It is not realistic to continue in this role long term without relying on the help of others. The assistance could come from formal sources such as local/state/federal respite services or informal resources like family, friends or neighbors. Take time to think about what can make a difference in your daily routine, what tasks create the most stress for you and what responsibility you can realistically relinquish.
Learn to say “No”. This is not always easy especially for anyone who has the expectation they should be able to do it all on their own. Pulling back from previous commitments could range from always being the one to host family dinners or the person everyone expects to volunteer for community events. This doesn’t mean isolating yourself from all activities it just means gauging how much you can honestly handle in addition to your caregiving role.
Forgive yourself for your imperfections. Most caregivers make mistakes or fail to live up to their expectations at one time or another. Do the best you, don’t get caught up with caregiver’s remorse or guilt. Acknowledge your accomplishments.
Find an outlet for expressing your stress. This could be speaking with a licensed therapist, attending a caregiver support group, writing in a personal journal or leaning on a trusted friend who is always willing to listen. Make time for something you really enjoy, even if it is just an hour to read a book, listen to your favorite music or take a relaxing bath.
Go online to search numerous websites for additional suggestions for reducing caregiver stress. Call your local Area Agency on Aging and speak with a representative from the Family Caregiver Support Program, experienced staff could prove to be your biggest ally in becoming a more successful caregiver.
Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Direct correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. 360 Merrimack Street B#5, Lawrence, MA 01843. Rosanne DiStefano is the Executive Director of Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc. For additional information or to schedule an appointment call 1-800-892-0890.