Family Caregiver Stress Relief

Posted October 6, 2014

At some point in the next year, almost 1 in 5 of us will be helping a loved one or a family member with activities related to managing her health. (Source: WomensHealth.gov.) Caregivers can be challenged with physical or financial strain as a result of the day-to-day tasks related to taking care of someone else’s health.

This week we explore 3 ways we can make sure we don’t neglect our own health in the process of helping care for a loved one or family member.

1. Plan a break.

Unlike other roles we take on, caregiving is unique in that it can be challenging to truly take a break from. Caregivers show signs of burnout physically, emotionally, and mentally. Signs of caregiver burnout include abnormal feelings of sadness or resentment, a general lack of taking care of our own health, irritability, or even exhaustion.

The first way to bring back a greater sense of control to your life is to re-set your expectations about how you handle the caregiver role.

Taking care of someone requires multiple people helping. “Because caregiving can be so draining, people need the ability to take advantage of anything that can increase the safety for their loved ones, increase morale, and even accountability, in a sense,” explains MedaChecks’ CEO, Jeffrey Shepard, Ph.D. “In this situation where we are looking at helping seniors stay independent or we are simply helping them better manage their own health, it’s technology that can help this happen. And possibly, once they are in a senior living community, we also see that it is this technology that is driving these communities to have better senior retention,” says Dr. Shepard.

“Everyone can ‘win’ with increase patient safety, feedback, and accountability with medication management,” adds Dr. Shepard.

Whether this means finding solutions to let seniors stay independent in their existing home longer, seeking an entirely new living community, or even respite care or day care, each situation is unique. Many aging care experts even recommend scheduling a caregiving “break” in advance to ensure that we actually do give ourselves relief.

2. Accept–and embrace–the need for delegation.

The majority of us, as family caregivers, also have jobs in addition to helping someone with her health-related tasks.

For example, it’s been reported that more than half of employed women caregivers end up having to make changes at work as a result of time-intensive caregiving duties.

These adjustments involve heading in to the office late, leaving work early, or simply having to work fewer hours.

“At a certain point, caregivers have to be able to delegate some of these tasks, or find a solution that can help them manage these tasks,” says Dr. Shepard. Some of us may realize this sooner than others, especially given the general lack of certainty that typically comes with taking care of someone’s health.

It can also be challenging to “let go” since it may change how you see your role with a loved one. “It can be hard to see our past role and dynamics with a loved one change. We know that MedaCheck is helping with this process, and it’s also serving as a way caregivers can have greater peace of mind about their loved one. It’s powerful for both caregiver and caregivee, as we see it,” says Dr. Shepard.

Begin to delegate tasks by setting up a meeting where any health-related stakeholders come together to talk about the current status of your loved one’s health. At a certain point, informal caregivers may find the need to hire additional help. Delegating as many tasks as possible can help us avoid any unreasonable burden placed on ourselves, daily frustration, and even resentment.

3. Don’t stop seeking support tools and resources.

Being a caregiver is one of the most taxing things we’ll do in our lifetimes. Add dementia or memory-related issues to helping care for someone else, and monitoring a loved one can become increasing difficult.

“But with this challenge,” says Dr. Shepard, “we also have an opportunity, and that’s to embrace telehealth technology, such as MedaCheck, for better self-management and better outcomes for our loved ones.” Eldercare specialists, counselors, or even a mental health professional are some of the ways we can also cope when times are extremely stressful.

Caregivers today are resourceful: even though medical professionals hold sway, we aren’t afraid to go to friends and family or to seek health-related information online. (Source: PewResearch Fact Sheet.) Caregiver communities and online forums are a popular place to seek help, support and guidance from those in similar situations.

A New Way of Looking at Caregiving

Most of us will act as an informal caregiver at some point in our lives. (Source: Office on Women’s Health, US Department of Health and Human Services). Don’t forget to be intentional and to put your health as a priority in your own life…After all, our loved ones wouldn’t have it any other way.