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Providing care for a family member in need is an act of extreme kindness and love – it can also take a heavy toll through stress overload if you don’t get the support you need. According to Compassionfatigue.org, compassion fatigue is what happens to a lot of caregivers. Many have been taking care of people their whole lives and are in need of stress relief. They feel it’s their duty and most are deeply caring individuals. However, if they get overtired, overstressed or exhausted, they berate themselves and push on to fulfill their responsibilities. Many have lost the ability to say “NO” as they feel they’re being cruel if they do. Caregivers in this position often can’t see a way out – until they become sick, run down and are forced by circumstances to take the time to meet their own needs.
The Sandwich Generation, (usually people between the ages of 35 and 60) are often responsible for providing care for aging and ailing parents as well as their children. This generation is aptly named because they are wedged between dual caregiving responsibilities. Statistics Canada says the number of Canadians older than 45 who are providing for aging parents and other adults, notably grown children, has increased dramatically. About 2.7 million Canadians provided unpaid care to people 65 and older in 2007 (the last year statistics were available.)
Caring for both children and parents can be emotionally, physically, mentally and financially challenging. Positive thinking and ways to input natural stress remedies would be helpful additions to boost health and well-being. A recent “Stress in America” study reports that higher levels of stress among older caregivers appear to be more chronic.
As a former caregiver for both an ailing father and a sick child (who did recover), I know the difficulties faced and it wasn’t until I could barely cope that I asked for help. After experiencing many health consequences and a lot of sleepless nights, I soon realized that my crumbling mental and physical well-being wasn’t good for anyone – my father, my son, the rest of my family and for me. If you are a caregiver, I urge you to not make the same mistake. You matter.
So where is the fine line between caring for others and caring for oneself?
10 Natural Stress Relief Remedies for the Caregiver:
1) Assess the entire situation. Are you overwhelmed, suffering from fatigue, anxiety regarding caregiving for a relative? It’s time to make a change.
2) Monitor yourself. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and feeding yourself well – especially with protein at each meal. Reduce sugar in your diet – cookies, cakes, soda pop and ice cream can set yourself up for a ‘yo-yo’ effect with mood swings. Sugar can also zap energy and weaken your immune system.
3) Do something you enjoy – take a walk or other exercise. Listen to music or talk to a friend or other relative about your feelings around caregiving. Watch a funny movie.
4) Accept your feelings – even difficult emotions such as anger, fear, resentment, grief, feeling helpless or guilty. Don’t keep feelings inside. Consider talking things over with a therapist or counselor.
5) Find time for relaxation. Learn some deep breathing techniques, or just focus on your breathing a few times a day, while you stop and get yourself into a calm state.
6) If you’re doing a lot of lifting, pulling or pushing someone in a wheel chair, you’ll need to take care of your shoulders and back. Soak in a tub of warm water and Epsom Salts for twenty minutes a few times a week.
7) Become informed about your loved one’s condition so that you can speak well to medical teams as you likely will be called on to make major decisions about their care.
8) Realize you don’t have to do it all yourself. Get help. Delegate chores to other family members or hire someone. Recruit agencies that can give care. Order Meals on Wheels, know your limits!
9) Call a social services agency and meet with a social worker to discuss the next steps. Taking action steps will help you feel empowered instead of on a treadmill.
10) Consider a type of short or long term care facility for your loved one, if appropriate. If this is out of the question, protect yourself and get the help you need.