Tips for Coping with Caregiving Stress

stressed woman covering her face with her hands
Photo credit: Kat Jayne / Pexels

It’s normal to experience some stress when providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s — but chronic stress isn’t healthy and it isn’t something you should ignore. Long-term stress can increase your risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, strokes, digestive problems, and depression, so it’s very important to monitor and manage stress in your daily life.

Both detecting the stress and coping with it can be harder than you might expect. Below are some steps you can take now to diffuse some of the pressure you’re feeling in day-to-day life. If you think you might be experiencing chronic stress or depression, speak to a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

1. When working with a person with Alzheimer’s disease, caregivers frequently find that adjustments in their approaches and expectations are necessary. Adjusting your approaches to the varying levels of assistance, mood, and behaviors of the person you care for may help you feel less stress and frustration.

2. For family caregivers, there is a unique change that takes place when caregiving begins. Spouses, children, and siblings may be involved in some aspect of a relative’s daily care. Providing this care may feel uncomfortable due to the previous relationship they had with their family member. The changing role of a caregiver can lead to stress, but awareness and acceptance of new roles can ease stress.

3. It should be expected that when a relationship changes, there will be some accompanying feelings of loss. Caregivers can alleviate some of these feelings by participating in stress-reducing activities such as exercise, deep breathing or visualization techniques, or simply joyful activities that provide some distraction.

4. Holding a family meeting can help you make difficult decisions. The family meeting should be well planned and conducted in a loving manner, encouraging each family member to voice their ideas and concerns. In some cases, families may benefit from having a facilitator at a family meeting who will assist in focusing on specific objectives. A counselor, social worker, physician, or clergy can serve in this role.

5. Many people think of depression as sadness, and certainly you can feel very sad when you are depressed. But that is not the only way depression may express itself. If you are feeling helpless, hopeless, worthless or guilty, nervous or irritable, restless or sluggish, lack energy, have concentration or memory problems, lost interest in pleasant activities, have difficulty with sleeping, aches and pains, or noticed appetite or weight changes, you may have symptoms of depression. If you are experiencing any of these conditions more than only occasionally, you should consider talking with your doctor.

6. Four very basic stress-busters include:

    • Eat and sleep regularly.
    • Consider using a regular respite caregiver to allow for personal time each week.
    • Ask for more help from friends, family, and neighbors.
    • Join a support group for Alzheimer’s disease caregivers.

7. Writing your personal story can be a powerful and therapeutic stress relieving tool for you. It can be long or short, elaborate or simple, but try to say in your own words what being a caregiver has meant to you. Be sure to include the benefits you have gained.

Ideas for Participating in the Daily Joys:

  • Exercise
  • Hobbies
  • Daily relaxation
  • Humor
  • Socializing with friends or neighbors
  • Talking on the phone
  • Gardening
  • Music
  • Praying
  • Pets
  • Reading
  • Bird watching
  • Shopping

For more information about detecting and managing stress as a caregiver, visit ARARF’s lessons on Detecting Caregiver Stress, Burden, and Depression and Caregiver Stress Coping Strategies.

And if you’re looking to connect with other caregivers on the same journey as you, consider joining ARARF’s private Facebook group: Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers.

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