Day after day, caregivers in Westchester, Fairfield, and Nassau Counties find the burden of caring for an aging loved one strains even the most resilient person. While caring for an aging family member is obviously beneficial for them in so many ways, it is essential that you also take steps to protect your own good health and mental well-being. Remember, if you don't take good care of yourself, you won't be able to care for anyone else.
Learn the symptoms of overwhelming stress and the ways you can avoid caregiver burnout before it happens. If you experience any of these signs of stress on a regular basis, make time to talk to someone close to you, a doctor or therapist and read below on how you can try to relieve the stress.
10 Symptoms of Caregiver Stress
- Denial about the disease diagnosis and the symptoms.
- Anger directed toward the person you are caring for, resulting from frustration that he or she can’t remember facts or do simple daily living tasks. “Dad, you know where the toothpaste is in the drawer. How many times do I have to tell you?”
- Social withdrawal from friends and activities that used to make you feel energized and happy.
- Feeling Constantly Worried about the future and the overwhelming list of tasks to take care of. “How am I going to find the time to pay my bills, do my errands and more importantly find the money to pay someone else so I can actually take a break?
- Depression that breaks your spirit and affects your ability to feel secure, relaxed and happy.
- Exhaustion, especially feeling overwhelmingly tired for even low-energy tasks.
- Sleep Problems caused by never-ending worries about caring for your loved one.
- Irritability leading to moodiness.
- Difficulty Concentrating so it difficult to perform regular tasks.
- Health problems such as frequent headaches, muscle pains or other physical problems.
Tips to Manage Your Caregiver Stress
Get help and find support. Know what community resources are available throughout New York City, Westchester, Long Island and Connecticut to give yourself a break. In-home care assistance, adult day care programs and meal delivery. Go online to find either local support programs through your state Alzheimer’s Association, senior center, faith-based organizations or social services. A support group can provide validation and encouragement, as well as problem-solving strategies for difficult situations. Set aside time each week for connecting, even if it's just a walk with a friend or sharing a cup of coffee with a neighbor.
The Alzheimer’s Association has a free 24/7 help line with master-level clinicians to talk with family members who are over-burdened. Call 1-800-272-3900 if you need help.
Who Can Help? Local Westchester, Fairfield County and Long Island Area Senior Services
Westchester County Department of Senior Programs and Services offers a free Family Caregiver Support Program seniorcitizens.westchestergov.com/caregiver-corner
Simple Proven Ways to Reduce Your Stress at Home
Visualization is mentally picturing a place that helps you feel peaceful and calm. Find out more at https://www.verywellmind.com/visualization-for-relaxation-2584112
Meditation for 10-15 minutes a day with a free app on your phone. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, meditation can help reduce stress, chronic pain (such as headaches), and blood pressure, as well as help you quit smoking and better navigate a variety of mental health conditions. Highly recommended is Insight Timer. https://insighttimer.com
Breathing Exercises such as slowing your breathing and focusing on taking deep, long intentional breaths can quiet your mind. Yoga helps with this as it includes breathing practices called Pranayama, which reduce stress and anxiety; promote restful sleep; ease pain; increase attention and focus; and, on a more subtle level, help people connect to a calm, quiet place within.
Get moving and take a walk outside. Even 10 minutes of exercise a day can help to reduce stress and improve overall well-being: Walking up and down the stairs in the home, stretching on the floor and possibly buying home exercise equipment.
Find time for yourself. Consider taking advantage of respite care so you can spend time doing something you enjoy. Respite care provides caregivers with a temporary rest from caregiving, while your loved one continues to receive care in a safe environment. Learn more about respite care from STEPS Home Care here, Alzheimer’s Association $500 grants available in Connecticut. Or contact your Area Agency on Aging for additional resources and support.
Accept help. Be prepared with a list of ways that others can help you, and let the helper choose what he or she would like to do. For instance, a friend may offer to take the person you care for on a walk a couple of times a week. Or a friend or family member may be able to run an errand, pick up your groceries or cook for you.