As the average age in this country continues to climb, an increasing number of adult children are becoming caregivers. For some, it is only for a few weeks or months while a parent recovers from an illness or surgery. Often, however, it is for a prolonged period of time. In fact, more than one third of family caregivers provide support to their loved one for five years or more.
Balancing caregiving tasks with a career and family is as difficult as it is rewarding. As a senior loved one’s needs increase, the juggling act often begins to feel overwhelming. It can lead to burnout or another health crisis for the caregiver. Knowing how to recognize the warning signs of caregiver overload and steps to manage chronic stress is vital.
Warning Signs of Caregiver Stress
Red flags that suggest a family caregiver is headed for their own crisis often include:
- crying frequently or becoming tearful easily
- overreacting to small events and inconveniences
- gaining or losing unhealthy amounts of weight
- sleeping too much or too little
- withdrawing from family, friends, and hobbies
- new health problems, such as headaches and stomach pain.
It isn’t uncommon for family caregivers to turn to unhealthy behaviors to cope with stress. A few examples include:
- consuming too much alcohol on a routine basis
- starting to smoke or increasing how much you smoke
- relying on medication to sleep or too much caffeine to stay awake
- eating fast food or unhealthy convenience foods on a regular basis.
Taking steps to manage chronic caregiver stress is important. These tips will give you a few healthy ways to get started.
4 Healthy Ideas for Managing Caregiver Stress
When it feels like caregiver stress is taking over your life, these tips may help you get back on track:
- Exercise: When days are full, it might not seem realistic to fit exercise in. The good news is you can exercise for short amounts of time several times a day and reap the same health benefits. For example, you might want to take a 15-minute walk before breakfast and ride a stationary bike for 15 minutes later in the day. If your senior loved one is able, taking them for a walk may help them sleep better, too.
- Bust stress: Some activities teach better breathing techniques. Learning good breathing practices helps people relax. It also aids in reducing the stress and anxiety common among caregivers. Meditation, yoga, swimming, and Pilates are a few.
- Explore options for help: If you don’t have any family members or friends who can pitch in to help, explore other community-based options. Many assisted living communities offer respite care. These short-term services give seniors a place to stay while their caregiver takes a break. Some religious institutions and nonprofit organizations have friendly visitor programs. These utilize volunteers to visit homebound seniors and support the caregiver. Your local agency on aging can help you locate a friendly visitor program near you.
- Eat a well-balanced diet: When demands on your time are considerable, it’s easy to let your commitment to a healthy diet slip. Fast food and convenience foods are easier, but aren’t usually healthy. They are often high in sodium, fat, and empty calories. It can put you at risk for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. When your diet is poor, your immune system is less able to fight off colds and flu. If you don’t have time to batch cook and freeze meals once or twice a month, explore meal delivery services. Silver Cuisine, Purple Carrot, and Sun Basket are a few options to explore.
Finally, consider exploring assisted living communities for your senior loved one. Assisted living communities are designed to give older adults the support they need to live their best quality of life. Call Sunrise Senior Living at 888-434-4648 to learn more and schedule a visit to a community near you.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living