Category Archives: Caregiver Stress

Social Media & Caregiving

imagesWith social media a part of our everyday lives, it’s no surprise that it has created an impact on family members and the caregivers who are taking care of an elderly loved one. The ability to easily communicate with people from around the globe helps to keep everyone in touch and aware of their loved ones conditions, especially towards the end stages of life. Although this may seem to be a great thing, social media and the ability to stay connected can sometimes create animosity between families as well as stress due to the lack of privacy it has created.

Here are two things to keep in mind regarding social media and some tactics to help keep private family information off the Internet.

1. When a loved one passes away, there could be an immediate reaction online from family members and friends as they show their remorse for the loss. This sometimes creates issues, as many family members may prefer to not immediately share that information publicly. Remember when addressing this type of situation that you are not only speaking on your own behalf but on behalf of an entire family and the loved one that passed. In order to protect what is shared on your loved ones page, privacy settings may be used to control some of the unwanted overflow of emotion that may arise. Also, communicating to those around you the expectations and wishes of family member who passed can also help keep a check on how information is shared.

2. Remember to consider the reason you are sharing loved ones information before doing so. A psychologist from the London School of Business suggests that before sharing anything take these two factors into consideration. One, does sharing the information make you feel better or will it make others feel better for what you have said? Secondly, are you using the information to better yourself in some way? If either of those questions can be answered truthfully without feeling a sense of guilt, the information you may want to share should be okay.

Ultimately, finding the right balance between social media and privacy of a loved one can be a tricky dance. Remember to think before you share private family information as offending a family member during tough times can create animosity for months to come. As great as the Internet has become and the ability to connect and share information increases, privacy needs to be cherished and respected especially in times of grief and despair.

Natural Light is Good For You!

Earlier this fall, you probably saw the news about a study conducted by Cornell Professor Rana Zadeh. The study compared nurses working in two wards of an acute-care unit. While the working conditions were similar in terms of organization, environment and the type of patients they cared for, the significant difference was the availability of windows in the nurses’ work stations.  The results showed that nurses with more natural light had lower blood pressure, talked and laughed more and had better overall moods than their counterparts in the ward with fewer windows & less natural light. In the study providing evidence that working in natural light improves performance, mood and alertness, and has a positive effect on people both physiologically and psychologically,

So what does this mean for caregivers and nurses?  In most cases, there’s little you can do to modify your work environment but there are a few things that may help:

  • Avoid the windowless break room & lunch room. Opt instead to go outside and enjoy a few minutes of fresh air and natural light. If you can take a walk at lunch, do so. In colder climates, spend a few minutes near a window during the winter months and take in the natural lighting.  These steps are similar to parking farther away in the parking lot and taking the steps instead of the elevator in order to get more exercise.  In this case, you’re taking steps to elevate your mood and improve your performance.
  • If you’re a home health aide or caregiver, throw open the drapes. Not only will the natural light be good for you, your care recipient will benefit as well. While you’re at it, throw open your own drapes at home!
  • Spend time outside when you get home from work and on the weekends. Spending too much time inside can have negative effects on your mood and attitude.
  • If you’re job hunting, there are many factors that are likely to be far more important than a “room with a view”, but while you’re interviewing, observe the surroundings. If you have a choice and all things are (mostly) equal, opt for the job with the most natural light.

 

Have A Stress-free Holiday Season

OverwhelmedCaregiving is stressful. Of that there is no denying and when you add the holiday hustle and bustle into the mix, you have the potential to amp up the stress and reduce the joy you should be experiencing this holiday season. When you take a step back and think about it, the holidays are about friends and family and being together; it’s not about perfection and a clean house!

Here are some tips that you can take to heart to help make certain your holiday is enjoyable and as stress-free as it can be:

  • The holidays are not about perfection: the perfect tree, the perfect meal, the perfectly cleaned home. Keep your decorations low-key, you don’t have to outdo the neighbors with your light display. Decorate with items that have particular meaning to you and your family without going overboard with totes and totes of decorations that need to be unpacked and then re-packed once the holiday has passed.
  • If you’re being invited to visit friends or relatives and there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day – with work, caring for aging relatives and your own family – don’t be afraid to set limits. “We would love to come and visit, but can only stay a couple of hours.” Set the expectations up front and stick to your time frame.
  • You don’t have to do it alone. Would your family disown you if you purchased a pie or two rather than making them? Could you get away with bakery cookies? Try it and see how many hours you could free up from not spending all of your time in the kitchen. If you simply can’t give up that part of your family tradition, then start a new tradition and ask for help. Also, don’t be afraid to delegate. If you need to, hire a housecleaning service to come in and do a deep clean on your home before the relatives arrive. Ask guests to bring a dish to pass – start a new tradition by adding your guests’ favorite dishes to your menu!
  • If someone asks you what you’d like for a gift, don’t say, “Oh, I don’t know or I don’t need anything.” Let them treat you if they want to! Ask for a gift certificate for a massage or a restaurant or tickets to a movie or a play you’d been dying to see. Ask them to pay for a trip to your favorite spa or salon!
  • Take time to share family stories. If you’re gathering family stories, make sure someone is recording them – either digitally or on paper – and take photos so you can capture the memories shared and have them as a physical token of your time together.
  • When you send your greeting cards, include a note that reads, “Mom and Dad are doing XYZ… it’s been a great, or a trying year, but we are moving forward.” Keep the note non-accusatory and you just might garner assistance from distant relatives who truly may not know what you’re doing as a caregiver.
  • Don’t be afraid to say “no.” If you truly don’t have the energy to attend another party or make another of your “famous pumpkin pies” then say so. Don’t make excuses, simply say you don’t have time and leave it at that, but thank them for having asked you.
  • Take time to count your blessings. Yes, the role of caregiver can be an exhausting one, but there are rewards. You are spending quality time with your aging loved ones. You are providing them with love and support and helping them to age in place. Even if they are in an assisted living or a nursing home environment, you will still likely be called upon or feel compelled to visit regularly and that can be a strain as well. Make the time you spend there quality time talking, playing games and sharing memories.
  • Ask siblings or other relatives to help chip in for a Medical Alert System. The peace of mind in knowing that your relatives will have immediate access to a trained professional from  if they suffer a medical emergency or a fall while you are not in attendance may allow you to regain some freedom without having the worry of them being alone.

Take time, amidst the rush of the season to care for yourself and to sit back and simply relax!

 

 

Teens Taking On The Role Of Caregiver

At a time when teens should be active in extra curricular activities, hanging out with friends and working at part time jobs, more and more kids are taking on the task of caregiving.

According to Dr. Julia Belkowitz, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, more than 1.3 million preteens and adolescents spend their free time caring for a family member with a physical or mental illness, or misuse substances.  The daily tasks include helping family members with eating, dressing, toileting, getting around, bathing and other common daily activities.

Dr. Belkowitz and her colleagues worked with the American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY) in Palm Beach County, FL to gain an understanding of the experiences of these youth who were an average of 12 years old; 62% were girls & 38% boys. In addition to daily care, the caregivers also indicated that in some cases, they cleaned the house, shopped for groceries, administered medications, provided companionship and emotional support and other tasks that are beyond their experience and training.

While caregiving can be difficult for many adults, these teens are facing challenges and situations that shouldn’t normally be on their radar.  AACY is helping to raise awareness about the issue of youth caregivers and working to develop partnerships to better understand issues and provide the resources and support to this growing population of caregivers.

 

The Beatitudes and a Prayer for Caregivers from the Catholic Herald

Beatitudes for Caregivers

Blessed are those who sleep poorly because they’re worried about their loved one or because their loved one wakes in the middle of the night and needs help, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn because their loved one, though still alive, is slipping away because of dementia, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek who force themselves to speak up and speak out to make sure their loved one receives the help he or she needs, for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for answers to why this is happening to their loved one and how much longer it will go on, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are those who show mercy, kindness and compassion to their loved one, for they will be shown mercy, kindness and compassion.

Blessed are those who keep clean a loved one who is physically or mentally unable to keep himself or herself clean, for they will see God.

Blessed are those who help their loved one find moments of peace, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are misunderstood, not appreciated and taken for granted in their role as caregiver, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you whose caregiving efforts are unjustly criticized — or who are falsely accused of not caring about others — because of your love for your care-receiver and your love for God, who has asked you to help his beloved son or daughter.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

A Caregiver’s Prayer

Heavenly Father, help me better understand and believe I can do what you ask me to do.

Forgive me for the times, even now, when I question your judgment.

As I go about the many daily tasks of caregiving, give me energy.

As I watch my loved one oh-so-slowly walk across the room, give me strength.

As I answer his/her repeated question just one more time, give me patience.

As I look for solutions to whatever is the most recent concern, give me wisdom.

As I reminisce with him/her about the “good old days,” give me a moment of laughter.

As I get to know my loved one in a new way, seeing both his or her strength and frailty, give me joy.

As I sit beside my loved one’s bed waiting for his or her pain medication to take effect, give me comfort.

Lighten my burden, answer my prayer, and give me the strength to do what so often seems impossible. Give me a quiet place to rest when I need it and a quieting of my anxieties when I’m there.

Change my attitude from a tired, frustrated and angry caregiver to the loving and compassionate one I want to be.

Remain my constant companion as I face the challenges of caregiving, and when my job is through and it’s time for me to let go, help me remember that he or she is leaving my loving arms to enter your eternal embrace. Amen.

From Catholic Herald.

 

Five Stress-Busting Tips For Caregivers

Caring for an aging parent, ailing spouse or child can take its toll on the caregiver. While care-giving is a task undertaken with love it can cause a strain on the caregiver’s health and in some instances put a strain on the relationship between caregiver and the care recipient.

As a way to help relieve stress, caregivers need to take time for themselves, away from the duties of caring for a loved one. In many cases, it’s not easy to do because you may need to find someone to come and relieve you, or if your loved one it able to be left alone, you still may worry, “What if something happens while I am gone?” The answer to that worry is that you could find another family member or friend to come and stay with your loved one or you could equip the home with a home medical alert device; with this device, at the push of a button he or she can receive assistance in the event of an emergency while you were out. These devices provide peace of mind for all involved in the caregiving relationship.

Once you determine you’re in need of some “stress-busting” here are five steps you can take that will go a long way toward self care – something that far too many caregivers do without:

  1. Take time to meditate. For some the word “meditate” may conjure up images of having to sit crossed legged on the floor chanting and for others, it may be a more spiritual. You can fit in short bursts of meditation by going to a quiet, preferably darkened room, perhaps putting on soothing background music and simply relaxing. Concentrating on your breathing and relaxing your muscles is a great way to relieve some stress when you simply can’t get out of the house or away from the caregiving tasks you’re faced with.
  2. Spend one day a week making a week’s worth of meals. Make your freezer, casseroles and your oven your best friend. Setting aside one day a week to cook for the upcoming week is a great time saver, especially if you work outside of the home. When you batch cook you are already in cooking mode so things move along quickly. Look for all-in-one meals that freeze well and offer healthy proteins; supplement the meals with fruits or vegetables as a side dish. You’ll find that creating meals during busy weeknights to be far easier.
  3. Speaking of eating… caregivers often forget to eat or take care of themselves and may be more likely to grab a quick, sugary or high carbohydrate snack; this will give you a quick  burst of energy but it will quickly wane. Keep cut veggies and fruits in the fridge. Portion out healthy, high fiber snacks and keep them handy for a quick pick me up. Try to avoid sugary snacks and drive-through restaurants as your go to foods.Fruits and vegetables
  4. Volunteer. This may sound counter-intuitive to a caregiver, but find an organization that you love and volunteer your time – it could be a local animal shelter or teaching knitting at a senior center or offering guided tours at the local museum. When you volunteer in this capacity you are giving back to a charity or organization that you truly love and it will help you to interact with others and, frankly, get out of the house for a while. Volunteering is something that you are truly doing for you.
  5. Take time to just slow down. As a caregiver, especially if you work outside of the house, it’s almost natural to rush through everything. Rushing means you’re going to be distracted and honestly that could lead to either you or your loved one getting accidentally injured. Another way to slow down is to make certain you’re getting a good night’s sleep. How can you do that? Sleep in a cool, darkened room, don’t use your computer or smart phone in the bedroom, turn off the television (if you need noise to fall asleep, invest in a sleep machine), go to bed and get up at roughly the same time during the week and even on the weekend.

Remember, a well-cared-for caregiver is better able to care for his or her loved one.

 

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Seven Tips To Make Holidays Enjoyable For The Seniors In Your Life

Along with the traditions of family gatherings and holiday meals, holidays tend to add to the stress a caregiver may feel. Holidays can lead to depression and feelings of isolation and loneliness for the seniors in your life. While loneliness and isolation can be year-round elements, holidays tend to amplify them.

Christmas tree
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the elderly in your life, holidays can be especially hard. The reasons for this are as varied as the loss of mobility or independence, the loss of a spouse, sibling or friend. Aging relatives may remember the times when they used to be the host for the holiday meals and it can trigger a sense of frustration.

As a caregiver, how can you help your aging relative deal with the holidays and make them happy events for the entire family? Here are ten tips to make the holidays the best they can be for everyone:

  1. Take time to listen. Letting your relatives know that you are available to listen to them if they want to share memories or discuss sadness or loss or how the holiday is making them feel, will help them get through it. Put yourself in their place and empathize with them.
  2. Make certain they understand how important they are to you and how you enjoy having them around on the holidays (and other times of the year). It may sometimes be hard to mask your body language when you’re tired or frustrated but don’t let them feel like they are a burden.
  3. Even in today’s electronic age, spend some time with your mom and dad and hand write and mail some holiday cards. Keeping in touch with friends and family help heighten the enjoyment of the holidays.
  4. Does your parent live in an assisted living facility or a nursing home? If he is healthy enough, and the doctor agrees, ask if you can bring them to the house for the celebrations. If they’re unable to leave the facility, make sure you set aside several hours to spend with them on the holiday.
  5. Decorate their room – not only for the holiday, but year round. Bring cherished items from home to give the room a personal touch. When the holidays roll around, make certain you decorate the room to make it festive leading up to the holidays.
  6. Are your parents involved in a church or other religious or social club? Reach out to their friends and invite them to visit the assisted living facility. Having visitors to help while away the hours is a gift that is long remembered. Ask whether the facility has a room where you could host a holiday gathering and invite friends and family.
  7. Don’t be too concerned with gift giving for the holidays. Chances are, your parents long outgrew the need for gifts or would simply purchase  items they wanted themselves. The best gift you can give is the gift of  your time. Try to set aside a few hours a week and spread your visits out.  A brief visit several times a week may be as welcome as an extended visit on only one day.

Holidays are stressful and busy times for everyone, especially for caregivers. But in the rush of the season, it’s crucial that you step back, slow down and remember what the holidays are for – friends and family – and give the seniors in your life the gift of your time an

natl_caregiver_month

November Marks National Caregivers Month: Are You A Caregiver?

Whether you’re caring for an aging parent or helping a family member or spouse who’s going through cancer treatments or recuperating from an accident, the role of caregiver has many different faces. November has been designated National Caregivers Month and it’s a time to take note of those individuals – and it may be yourself – who give of their time and make a commitment to help care for a family member or friend.

Understanding what care giving means

For many people giving care means helping an individual cope with daily needs. Those needs could range from preparing meals, cleaning the house, running errands or taking them to a doctor, helping them get dressed or helping with physical or occupational therapy treatments. Caregiving could also mean making sure that medications are taken, that blood sugar levels are monitored or that personal hygiene is maintained. The role of caregiver could even simply mean “being there for them” as they navigate the emotional roller coaster that could come with limited mobility or the uncertainty of treatment and its outcome.

Being thrust into the role of caregiver may mean you need to put your own emotions and needs aside. It’s also easy for many caregivers to neglect caring for themselves and eventually experience burnout and stress from the role they’ve taken on; it can lead to depression and anxiety.

Caregivers need to learn to take care of themselves first and foremost so they can be an effective caregiver. What steps can you take to make certain you are both mentally and emotionally healthy and able to continue in your role?

Here are some ideas you can incorporate into your daily routine:

  • Acknowledge your feelings. You’re “allowed” to feel anger, guilt or frustration. Your feelings are your own and need to be addressed. It’s all right to feel these feelings as caregiving can be an exhausting and sometimes seemingly thankless task. Unless someone is in that role, they will not understand what you’re going through. If that’s the case, you should connect with other caregivers so you can share your feelings.
  • Keep track of your feelings because if you’re overcome with a sense of sadness that lingers you may be depressed and should talk with a doctor. Feeling angry with yourself for your lack of patience with the person for whom you’re caring or with family members that aren’t helping out are extremely natural. You should look to the cause of the anger and address it: is it stress, fear, the need for more support?

What can you do to address your feelings?

  • Ask for help. If you don’t ask, friends and family may simply assume you’re carrying on just fine and may not consider the stress you’re under.
  • Understand that your feelings are natural.
  • Focus on those tasks which make sense during the day. If you simply don’t have time to mow the lawn or deep clean the bathroom, let it go or hire someone to do it for you. Look to those tasks that you don’t want to do or can’t do and reach out for help. Ask for help with shopping, running errands or cooking meals.
  • Take time for yourself. Ask for a day off and then do something you enjoy. Whether it’s visiting a museum, going for a walk or just taking a few hours to sit in a coffee shop and relax, you need to practice self care.
  • Don’t feel guilty asking for help. Unless someone is in your shoes, they cannot understand how difficult (and yes, rewarding) caregiving can be.

Caregivers provide a much-needed level of support for family members but in many cases they “toil in obscurity” because unless you reach out, not many people will understand that you need assistance. Even the individual you’re caring for may not be as appreciative as you’d imagine they “should” be, but you need to keep in mind that he or she is struggling to cope with the changes in their life that has lead them to need a caregiver. Working together and working with family and friends can make your role as a caregiver rewarding and fulfilling.

 

 

 

Web Technologies Make Being Away From Elderly Loved One Easier For The Caregiver

If you become a caregiver to an aging parent or relative you will find that one of the most difficult parts of that role is trying to keep up with everything – your own personal life and the needs of your loved ones. This can be made even more difficult if you are involved in a long distance caregiving situation. While it may seem overwhelming, and it will be at times, being organized will make the situation less stressful.

When you’re in the role of caregiver you are not only involved in the care of a relative but you are also likely going to be expected to keep the rest of the family and friends apprised of what is happening. How can you be expected to juggle all of the balls that will be tossed your way? Here are some web-based tools and technologies that can help:

  • Using a checklist or marking items on a calendar are certainly good ways to keep yourself on track with the tasks that need your attention. You may also need to find electronic means to do this as well, especially if you’re looking to friends and family members to help with some of the caregiving chores such as buying groceries or taking your parents to doctor’s visits.
  • Consider conference calls as a way to keep in touch with family members as it’s a great way to get everyone on the phone at the same time to discuss concerns or to merely catch everybody up on what’s been going on with your loved ones. A conference call is much better, and much easier to coordinate, than to make individual phone calls and it also keeps everyone on the same page as to what’s going on and what needs to happen.
  • Consider setting up a blog page as a way to share photos between family members and to keep your elderly relatives involved in what’s going on with the children and grandchildren. You can upload photos and brief blurbs of what is happening in everyone’s lives. If your relatives aren’t tech savvy the caregiver can spend some time with them getting them online and letting them read what’s going on in the family.
  • Social media pages are also great, free, ways to stay in touch. You can set up a private group within Facebook and it can be a spot (in case you don’t want to set up a blog) where photos can be uploaded and you can share status updates with the family. It’s a great, all in one location, in which everyone can interact.
  • If your relatives are tech-savvy enough, or if they’re not, you can  help them when you’re there on a visit, set up a webcam and have video chats with other family members. Webcam chats are a great way to let your elderly family members feel closer to everyone because they will be able to have face-to-face interaction. Imagine if the family lives out of town and you (as the caregiver) live in the same area as your aging parents you could feel as if you were part of family parties and holidays through the use of a webcam.

Keeping all family members involved in the ongoing conversation of the care of aging relatives helps to relieve caregiver stress as well as keeping everyone in touch. Technologies can also help your relatives age in place, especially if they are tech-savvy, as the internet can make them feel more connected and less alone.

Stress-busting Tips For Caregivers

Caring for your aging or ill parent can wreak havoc on a caregiver’s health. Add to the mix, caring for your own family and perhaps holding down a job and you can see how important it is to take a step back and take care of yourself. You may be the type of person who says, “I can do this all myself,” but when it comes to raising a family, pursuing a career and caring for aging parents, the toll those tasks can take on your health could be devastating.

Here are some tips that you can incorporate into your daily routine that will help you remain healthy and available for those who are relying on you:

  • Did you know that meditating only ten minutes a day can drastically improve your emotional health? Whether you chant a mantra or simply choose a quiet spot to meditate on something that brings you joy (visualization of a relaxing environment, for example) taking ten minutes out of your day can help you face whatever comes with a better, more positive attitude.
  • Stockpile your freezer with heat and eat dinners. If you have limited amounts of time to cook, making meals in batches for the week ahead can relieve the “what’s for dinner” questions you may be faced with when you come home from work. Making meals in batches, freezing them and even labeling them with heating instructions can help you not only eat healthier meals but will make meal-time a breeze. If you spend your time driving back and forth between your aging relatives’ home, your home, work and running errands having access to healthy snacks can be a lifesaver and help you avoid driving through a fast food joint for a meal. Keep nuts, dried fruits, vegetables or even a peanut butter sandwich with you. High fiber, fresh, whole grain snacks are      the best.
  • Do you ever notice that when you rush to complete a task you sometimes either make a mess of it, break something, or injure someone? As a caregiver, there are myriad pressing tasks, but slowing down and completing them will help you stay focused and may even help relieve some stress. Remember, you don’t have to do it all alone; recruit friends or family members to help with some of the tasks you never seem to get to – spring cleaning, lawn maintenance, bathroom cleaning, etc.
  • You need your rest. Whether you find a way to take a day or two off from your caregiving duties or whether you make it a practice to get eight hours of sleep a night, relaxation and getting enough sleep go a long way in helping you stay health. If you’re losing sleep, you will obviously be fatigued, but lack of sleep can negatively impact your mood and cause anxiety. One way that caregivers find that helps relieve the stress of leaving their senior parents alone for the overnight or for long stretches of time is to have a home medical emergency device. These devices provide the aging individual with a medical alert pendant which means that at the push of a button they have immediate access to a trained individual that will initiate emergency medical response teams and contact you as well. These devices are ideal for both peace of mind for the caregiver and the individual wearing it.

It may seem counter-intuitive to you to take a day off and you may feel guilty about it, but talk with your family members and let them know that in order to continue to care for them you need to care for yourself as well.