According to the Mayo Clinic, nearly 80% of long-term care in the United States is provided by informal caregivers such as a spouse, adult child or close friend. If you’re caring for an aging loved one, you’re not alone. But just because the role of family caregiver is increasingly common doesn’t make the job any easier. Those caring for a loved one with declining health or abilities often suffer from physical and emotional burnout and significant levels of stress.
Nancy Clanton, Community Relations Director at Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay, a senior living community in Venice, Florida, understands the challenges caregivers face and the need for positive ways to cope with them. “The demands of caregiving can be a lot to bear,” says Clanton. “If caregivers don’t take the time to care for themselves, too, the consequences could be damaging for everyone involved. It’s important to know how to recognize caregiver stress and learn positive coping techniques for relieving it.”
Learning to Recognize Caregiver Stress
Caregivers usually shrug off the most common signs of caregiver stress, such as fatigue and anxiety, as part of the job. However, the long-term effects of these conditions could lead to serious threats to your health and happiness. As stated in the Mayo Clinic’s article “Caregiver stress: Tips for taking care of yourself,” caregivers “may be so focused on [their] loved one that [they] don’t realize that [their] own health and well-being are suffering.”
Signs of caregiver stress include but are not limited to:
- Feeling overwhelmed and constantly worried
- Physical and emotional exhaustion
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Significant weight change
- Feeling irritable, hopeless or helpless
- Frequent headaches or body pain
- Lack of interest in things you enjoy
- Abusing drugs or alcohol
- Withdrawing from friends and family
These symptoms occur most often when caregivers start to neglect their own health, happiness and well-being. Other pressures such as role reversals (“parenting” a parent), lack of control or unrealistic expectations for impacting a loved one’s health can increase the risks and severity of these symptoms, leading to serious health problems such as mental illness or high blood pressure.
Positive Coping Techniques for Relieving Stress
Fortunately, there are many scientifically proven ways to keep your caregiver responsibilities from overwhelming you. In an article by the Cleveland Clinic, “Caregiving: Recognizing Burnout,” experts compiled ideas to reduce stress and prevent emotional and physical burnout. By taking care of yourself, keeping a positive attitude and seeking support, you can manage your responsibilities and alleviate the anxiety they might cause.
Consider implementing these positive coping techniques:
- Be realistic – Know your limits when it comes to the amount and type of care you can provide. Set realist caregiving goals to accomplish, and don’t be afraid to accept help from family and friends. No one can – or should be expected to – do it all on their own.
- Educate yourself – The more you know about your loved one’s needs, the better care you can provide. Understanding your loved one’s condition can keep you from worrying or overexerting yourself unnecessarily.
- Acknowledge their condition – Be realistic about your loved one’s health conditions. If they have a chronic illness or progressive cognitive disease like dementia, recognize that you cannot cure your loved one. Your job is to give them the highest quality of life possible.
- Accept your feelings – It’s okay to have negative feelings of frustration, bitterness or guilt. These emotions are normal, and they don’t make you a bad person. Reassure yourself that you’re doing the best you can.
- Stay connected – Find support from a trusted friend or family member. It’s important for you to socialize with people other than your loved one, as well as have someone with whom you can vent, seek advice and find reassurance.
- Find positive outlets – Learn healthy ways to cope with the daily demands of caregiving. Keep a good sense of humor and a positive attitude. Discover ways to relieve stress that do something good for you, such as journaling, exercising or dancing.
- Stay healthy – Do your best to take good care of yourself. Eat a balanced diet, find time to exercise and develop a healthy sleep pattern.
- Make time for you – Allow yourself time to do the things you love. Meet with friends, read a book, pursue a hobby and enjoy what makes you feel alive. Don’t lose your identity beneath your caregiving role.
- Utilize respite care – Find an assisted living community or family member who can provide respite care for your loved one every once in awhile so you can have time to run errands or take a break.
- Join a support group – Many senior organizations offer support groups for caregivers to meet with one another, share ideas and gain support from people who understand what they’re going through.
We Support Family Caregivers
At Tuscan Gardens, we understand what you are going through. The trials and frustrations of caregiving are enough to wear you down, but we’re here so you don’t have to go through this journey alone.
“Our community is dedicated to supporting families of seniors in need of attention and care,” says Clanton. “We offer educational programs and events to connect you to excellent resources and teach you everything we can about providing senior care at home. Our experienced team is just a call or visit away to discuss your most difficult care concerns.
“If you’re feeling overwhelmed by caregiver stress, don’t wait to seek help. So many others are going through the same challenges, and senior living experts have a myriad of ways of helping you experience relief. We can help you discover positive ways to cope with your stress and provide the best lifestyle, for you and your loved one.”
The Art of Living
At Tuscan Gardens® of Venetia Bay, we’ve mastered the art of living. We’ve perfected the balance of personalized support and an uplifting lifestyle, helping our residents experience independence, joy and meaning every day.
Offering supportive independent living, assisted living and memory care services for families in Venice, Florida, Tuscan Gardens of Venetia Bay was founded with one simple, yet profound goal – to create a community worthy of our parents. In all we do, we are guided by the principles of family, culture and engagement, working to represent the remarkable way of life our families deserve.
Luxury, intimacy, opportunity, passion and beauty combine to create what the Italians call sprezzatura – a culture of effortless elegance. The essence of our community is made up not only of mere aesthetics, but an artfully designed lifestyle to bring out the best of what each day has to offer. From dedicated care that respects residents’ individuality and dignity to a lifestyle that nurtures their love of life, Tuscan Gardens was built to be more than just a residence, but a place to call home.