I have really lost track of how many conversations and/or blog postings I have had about Caregiver Stress. As a certified geriatric care manager, we work with families, and a substantial part of my focus is upon the stress of a caregiver trying to both deal with a loved one’s eroding health, but also the demands on them from the others who depend on them. I would like to devote a bit of space here to addressing the stress of the aging loved one and how a caregiver can help them to cope with what life throws their way.
Retirement is a break from the stressors of a workaday world, to be sure. But as one lives to do what one wishes as a reward from a long career, there comes a time when new stressors emerge. There can be increasing physical challenges from a medical condition that is not going to get better. Many of these conditions like arthritis, cardiovascular or pulmonary issues just get worse with time. As a person becomes less and less able to do the things they used to do to take care of themselves, the stress mounts. Other very common stressors are those that come with needing an elder caregiver, a spouse or partner to help with every day tasks; it takes an increasing toll. With general changes in health status can come a profoundly diminished sense of well-being and just plain depression. So much for the Golden Years.
As a caregiver, look for these warning signs of excessive stress in one or both of your older loved ones:
- signs of anxiety, undue worry or outright panic attacks
- irritability or angry outbursts
- sadness, melancholy or lethargy
- indecisiveness or difficulty focusing
- difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep
- an array of aches, pains or other issues of nonspecific origin
- rashes, breathing problems or other “new” allergies
- drinking or eating too much or too little; or
- an increasing number of prescription or OTC medications on hand.
As a caregiver, you can help by helping your loved one to find a remedy for the stress. There is no absolute way to rid ourselves of all stress at any age, but the key is finding help to cope more effectively with the stress in our lives. For your older loved one, consider:
- Gently and persistently encouraging your loved one to be more socially engaged with friends, clubs or outings in order to get a break from the stress cycle;
- Help your loved one to find seek out talk therapy; it is not about getting another prescription nearly as much as “unloading” to a trained therapist;
- Seeking a physical aid in the form of gentle massage therapy, exercise classes like yoga, relaxation therapy or just getting out for longer walks.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.