Elder Care Issues: How to Reduce Caregiver Anxiety Symptoms

Caregiving is, by its very nature, the giving of yourself for someone else. Caregivers need to respond to the every need of the person they care for, and they often find themselves essentially giving up their own life for the life of someone else – all while dealing with the natural stresses and anxieties of caring for someone with special needs.
That kind of sacrifice comes with a price. Caregivers are often prone to serious stress and anxiety that can be debilitating, and may take away from your ability to deal with the needs of the person under your care. For those that are suffering from caregiver anxiety, consider these tools and tips for improving your own mental health.

Caregiver Anxiety Tips

  • Be “Selfish – Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that your mental health affects your ability to be a good caregiver. Caregivers with anxiety and stress won’t be 100% at all times. So if the stress is starting to get to you, it is in your best interests – and the best interests of the person you care for – to take a moment and find a way to relax. It’s not selfish to want yourself to be at your best, even if it takes away from your caregiving duties for a short time.
  • Join Support Groups – So much of caregiving involves taking care of those with dementia, or fading health, or Alzheimer’s, or some other disorder. Witnessing that breakdown can be emotionally difficult. Support groups give you an opportunity to surround yourself with others experiencing the same thing. It makes you feel like you’re not alone and supported. Developing that type of community can be powerful.
  • Exercise – One of the first things that caregivers neglect when they start caring for others is attention to their own physical health. Yet the mind and body are powerfully connected. If you’re consistently inactive you’ll end up with excess energy that will only fuel your anxiety further. If, on the other hand, you exercise regularly, you’ll burn away not only excess energy, but also cortisol (a hormone released when you’re stressed).
  • Go Out With Friends – As hard as caregiving is, chances are you have some free time (as little as it may be). It’s important you do not let yourself fall into the trap of using that time to simply mope about your stress. Force yourself to stay active. Go out and spend time with your friends, and allow yourself the opportunity to create social support for yourself, laugh, and create memories outside of your caregiving.
  • Therapy – Many people look at therapy the same way they do pharmaceutical medicines, and this is simply unfair. Therapy can be extremely effective at helping you cope with your stress and anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has received ample research into anxiety reduction tips and strategies, and seeing a therapist is 100% side effect free. If you can afford it, therapy can be an extremely helpful option to consider.

Developing Strategies to Cope With Anxiety

You can also find your own coping strategies as well, provided they are emotionally healthy. Skipping stones at a park or walking your dog may be a worthwhile way of coping, and if it helps you improve your mental health you should always find time to do it, even if it takes away from your caregiving duties for a short time.
The above methods of decreasing stress and anxiety are valuable, but they’re just suggestions. The most important thing you can do for your caregiver anxiety, however, is recognize that you own your mental health matters. No matter how much you need to care for someone else or how important that other person is, they – and you – need to always make sure that you’re taking at least a bit of time to ensure you are able to relax, otherwise neither of you will get the attention that you deserve from the caregiving relationship.

About the Author: Ryan Rivera is an anxiety specialist that has written countless tips for managing stress and anxiety. He has a website dedicated to anxiety disorders and treatments at www.calmclinic.com.

Home Health Aides: Present and Future (Jane Gross)

In today’s issue of the New York Times’ New Old Age blog, Jane Gross adds the third part of her series on home health aides.  The topic is so closely related to caregivers and the value they provide outside of providing care, that I wanted to share it with everyone.

Here’s an excerpt from this great article:

This is our third, and last, installment of questions and answers from Marki Flannery, president of Partners In Care, an affiliate of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, the industry leader in licensed home care services. Previously, in part one, I discussed with her Home Health Aides: Why Hire From an Agency? In part two, we covered Home Health Aides: What They Make, What They Cost.

Today, Ms. Flannery offers advise about hiring and managing people essential to our parents’ well-being, and of what the future holds once the baby boomers need home care for themselves.

Click to read the complete article on the New Old Age blog.

CareFlash: Where Technology Makes Care Far Easier

A string of serendipitous events this week made me a true believer in how technology can dramatically simplify the way we care for our loved ones.

A Sick, Distant Relative

I heard from a family member that a distant cousin had a brain issue that has required several surgeries to correct.  He’s still not out of the woods, but they’re making progress finding the root cause.

The poor kid just graduated high school and his mother is emotionally exhausted.

She’s drained not just from the stress of her son’s illness, but from the hard work required to continuously update friends and family, explain the illness, describe treatments and their results, etc.

Everyone wants an update, so she repeats the same process nearly every day.

Coordinating Care is Hard Work

  • Have you ever had a loved one in the hospital, or suffering from a diagnosis that required a long or permanent care period?
  • Do you have friends of co-workers who needed a hand after an injury or illness?
  • How many times did you explain the diagnosis and treatment?
  • How did you coordinate errands or take the kids to school?
  • How did you handle your own life while you provided care to this person?

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