How to Handle the Stress and Depression of Elder Care

Stress happens to everyone.  For someone who is involved in elder care giving, it can be magnified a hundred fold.  There are many studies which show the care giver has a higher chance of experience stress related illness.  Chronic depression, often, plagues care givers.  Is is possible to alleviate some of this crushing stress?

First of all, one must assess what is stressing us out.  Are you caring for a dementia patient, and constantly having to watch them so they don’t get out and wander?  Is our elder’s health declining rapidly and nothing seems to help them back to a better place?  Have you taken on too much with no one to back you up?

After your assessment of your stresses, can you cut any of them out of alleviate any of them?  Maybe you have spread yourself a little thin with an extra added activity.  Is there anyone who can take some of this additional burden off your shoulders?

One area which can cause stress is not having any time for yourself.  I know elder care can be a 24/7/365 experience, especially if they are living with you.  Taking time for yourself can seem as elusive as the horn on a unicorn.  I know they need you.  But, if you are all used up, what good will you be to them?

TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF

There are services out there through Medicare or the Veterans Administration which can provide bathing, light house keeping, etc.  Take those times when someone else is with them to take time away for your special time.  Go for a walk, visit a friend, read a book in the park, go for a walk, anything to release your mind from your worries and stresses.

It is not being selfish to carve out time for yourself.  One of the things that helps me when I’m under stress from elder care is to find a way to break away and meditate for half and hour.  If you are new to meditation, this is site where I learned to meditate.

Sometimes, I put on a relaxing piece of music, close my eyes and really listen to it as if I could hear every note and each individual instrument.  It is amazing how spending a little time away can be so completely refreshing!

A good way to get some time for yourself is to enroll your elder in Adult Day Care.  Check with your elder’s doctor for a referral to an
Adult Day Care near you.  A good Adult Day Care will have activities of interest to your loved one.  Enrolling your loved one into Day Care gives you a break and gives them some outside stimulus which can help them stay engaged in life.

DEVELOP A NETWORK OF FRIENDS

It is important to not feel isolated.  Care giving can be isolating because of the intensity of time and care involved.  Friends can be cultivated in your community, church, online, or any place people gather.  It can be relationships of people who are going through the same thing, or it could be a hobby you’re interested in.

There are some loving communities of people online in elder care forums who’s expertise can benefit you, or your expertise can benefit them.  It helps to know there are others experience the same stresses as you, and what they have done about it.

DON’T TRY TO BE A SUPER HERO!

It’s okay to ask for help from other family members, friends, or agencies.  If you flame out and your cape gets burnt, how will you fly tomorrow?  It’s perfectly fine to fold your cape and put it away for a few hours, days, or what ever it takes for you to feel refreshed.  I, personally, know how it feels to be the one and only who cares for them.   You are not alone!

If you cultivate help from others, especially other family members, they become more invested in the care giving process.  This can lead to a stronger network of loving support for you.

Care giving can be a stressful thing.  It can, also, be a very rewarding endeavor.  It is important not to use up all your reserves.  Reach out for others.  Take time for yourself.  Realize you’re only human.  Your care giving responsibilities won’t last forever.  When it’s all over, it’s comforting to know you did the best you could and the experience enriched your life forever!

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3 Responses to “How to Handle the Stress and Depression of Elder Care”

  1. Nadezda says:

    Humor is an almost physiological response to fear.

  2. If you work for a nursing home or assisted living facility, you should also never hesitate to talk to fellow co-workers or superiors about potential problems. And try to ensure that fellow care givers are following the codes. Can’t tell you how many of my fellow caregivers at one time where cutting corners that should not have been cut. Caregivers that do their jobs = happy seniors = a more positive environment.

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