The increasingly aging population in Canada means that more people are taking on caregiving roles without any training or experience.

When a senior starts to require some extra help around the house, taking care of daily tasks and routines, it is usually a family member that steps in to provide the necessary support.

As home care needs increase, and more time is needed to provide adequate care for an elderly family member, stress levels tend to rise for family caregivers. Especially without any formal training in health care.

Chronic stress is one of the most prevalent factors leading to a variety of health problems. High stress, combined with the other unhealthy lifestyle practices that often come with a packed schedule, can quickly start to have a detrimental impact on overall health.

These other unhealthy lifestyle choices usually include things like bad diet, lack of exercise, sleep deprivation, and limited social activity.

If you are feeling overwhelmed as a family caregiver, there is help available, as well as a variety of suggested practices that can help reduce stress and exercise effective self-care.

Factors that may Contribute to Caregiver Stress

There are many different life factors that can result in stress for caregivers. Some of the most common causes of stress for caregivers, include:

  • No home care training or experience
  • Feeling smothered or trapped
    • Typical if caregiver is living with person being cared for
  • Financial struggles
  • Being forced into a caregiving role
  • Social isolation
  • Depression
  • Too many care hours needed
  • Ineffective coping skills
  • Lack of support

Symptoms of Caregiver Stress

In many cases caregivers are not even aware of the level of stress they are experiencing or the pressure they are under.

Some typical signs of caregiver stress, may be:

  • Chronic worrying
  • Fatigue
  • Fluctuations in weight
  • Short temper – quick to become irritated
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Frequent headaches
  • Getting sick more frequently than usual
  • Substance abuse
  • Lack of interest in activities that used to be fun
  • Feeling overwhelmed

The situation is different for all caregivers, but if you are feeling continually stressed, it may be time to seek the assistance of a professional home care agency.

Caregiver Strategies for Coping with Stress and Practicing Self-Care

Caregiving duties can be extremely demanding, and effective self-care practices are needed to prevent the situation from getting out of control.

Some coping strategies to reduce stress and engage in self-care, are:

  • Self-compassion
  • Focus on your strengths
  • Set achievable goals
  • Healthy lifestyle choices
  • Seek family help
  • Respite care

Self-Compassion

Self-care all starts with self-compassion. Truly caring about your own health and wellbeing is essential for providing effective care for another person.

Don’t be too hard on yourself about what you are not able to do, and rather focus on the good work you are doing, and the difference you are making in your loved one’s life.

Focus on Strengths

Again, it is recommended to concentrate on the positives instead of being too self-critical. What aspects of caregiving are you good at?

Perhaps you are good at helping keep the house organized and the bills paid on time, but not as comfortable with personal care and hygiene.

Assistance is available from professional caregivers to help out with activities you may struggle with, to help share the responsibility.

Set Achievable Goals

Be realistic in what you hope to achieve as a caregiver. Trying to take on too much will only result in disappointment and increased stress.

Make a list of what you hope to accomplish each week and keep your expectations practical.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Living a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to actualize self-care. There are 4 basic components of a healthy lifestyle:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Sleep
  • Social activity

Arguments can certainly be made for other elements, but if you are healthy in these 4 areas, you are well on your way to effective self-care.

Seek Family Help

If you are the only family member providing regular care, try to think of other relatives or friends that could chip in and help out.

Even family members that live far away can provide some assistance, whether it be financial or otherwise.

Spreading the responsibility eases the stress for all involved.

Respite Care

Respite care services are also available to help ease the burden. Professional caregivers can offer assistance with a variety of tasks, from home support to personal care.

The services can be provided in the comfort of home and can requested as often as they are needed.

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