Dealing with Caregiver Stress
When someone close to us begins to face the realities of an advancing illness, many of us will begin to define ourselves as caregivers. Hospice can allow us to do just that, for one of the many options available with hospice care is the option of a family member serving as a caregiver. For many, becoming a caregiver offers connection, pride and the opportunity to express how deeply we care about our loved one. In a very real sense it is a heroic role and a truly demanding role. Though hospice family caregivers have great support and help from our hospice team, it is still a role that will take time and present challenges. Learning how to deal with the stresses that are a natural part of facing a loved one’s illness as well those that come from stepping into the caregiving role, will help you provide the best possible care.
With the end goal of ensuring the best possible care for your loved one, support from others will be important. Consider seeking help from other family members, church families, friends and even neighbors who may be willing to help. Though asking for help may be difficult, the benefits for you and your loved one will outweigh your hesitations. You are likely to find that many are glad to help, and may be waiting for you to need them.
It is important as a caregiver to remember to make time for yourself and to take care of your own needs. Remember, the care that you give your loved one suffers if you are not in the best possible place, both physically and mentally. It is vital that you remain healthy and able to provide your loved one with the best care you can and that begins with taking care of yourself.
Tips to Relieve Caregiver Stress
- Recognize the signs of caregiver stress, such as sleeping or eating problems, anxiety, headaches, depression, guilt, muscle fatigue or tension are just a few.
- Ask for help from friends and family. Some would–be helpers hesitate to offer because they don’t know your needs.
- Stay connected. It is important to maintain relationships with others and not just the loved one in your care.
- Keep a journal. Talk or write about your feelings, whether they are good or bad. A regular record of events and emotions will help you recognize stress before it becomes a problem.
- Learn all you can about the illness. What can you expect and what new issues might arise.
- Take one thing at a time. Break challenges into smaller parts.
- Take time away for yourself. It may be difficult, but try to find some time for yourself. Don’t completely isolate yourself in the caregiving role. Take time for your hobbies; they will help take your mind off the situation and responsibilities even if it is just for an hour or so a day.
- Talk to others. Look for support groups. It often helps to speak to others who are in a similar situation and can share your frustrations, feelings and concerns.
- Celebrate your successes. Allow yourself to feel good about your efforts. This is not a role that demands absolute perfection. Take pride in what you are doing for someone else; it really is a big deal.
- Breathe and take a deep breath, gain perspective. You are giving the best part of yourself to help someone you love. One day you will be able to look back and know what you have contributed.
- Stay in touch with your sense of humor. Sometimes laughter really is the best medicine.