Being a caregiver can be an exhausting and difficult task. It’s important to recognize caregiver burnout and cope healthily. Understanding caregiver burnout symptoms and coping mechanisms can help make caregiving more enjoyable and fulfilling. About 1 in 3 adults serves as an informal caregiver to another adult, like an aging parent or disabled relative. Although many find the opportunity to care for a loved one to be a privilege, it can also be demanding. Here is
how to cope effectively.
Managing your Care when Caring for Others
Caregivers who care for individuals with Alzheimer’s or Dementia should manage their stress to prevent burnout and keep their caregiving optimism high.
Challenges involved in caring for someone with these and other conditions. Caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia can cause special challenges for the caregiver
Communication can be especially challenging between the caregiver and patient. Because an individual with Alzheimer’s or dementia may not remember names, conversations or events, they may repeat questions, have difficulty finding the right words, easily lose their train of thought and speak less frequently.
Individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia can exhibit behavior changes including depression, agitation, aggression, confusion, and suspicion. Caregivers can remain calm and patient and accept behaviors as a part of the disease in order to better work through it.
Memory loss may be mild in the early stages, but as the disease progresses, so will the level of memory loss. Caregivers can be called the wrong name, not be recognized, and more as individuals lose their memory.
Managing Caregiver Stress
Providing care for individuals in these and other conditions can be extremely fulfilling and challenging at the same time. It’s important that caregivers take care of themselves so they can remain hopeful, energetic and optimistic to provide proper care.
Signs of Caregiver Stress (womenshealth.gov)
- Feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and angry
- Making mistakes when giving care
- Feeling alone, isolated, or deserted
- Not getting enough sleep
- Getting too much sleep
- Gaining or losing a lot of weight
- Feeling tired frequently
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Becoming easily irritated
- Feeling constantly worried or sad
- Having headaches or body aches often
Self-Care and Stress Management Tips
It’s important for caregivers to take care of themselves, both physically and emotionally even while they care for others. Finding the time to care for yourself with proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep—as well as getting support from family and friends will help caregivers relieve stress and can prevent burnout.
Physical Ways To Manage Stress
- Get regular exercise
- Participate in extracurricular activities
- Eat a balanced diet
- Pamper yourself
- Stay on track of your own health
- Get plenty of sleep
- Get regular doctor check ups
- Mental/Emotional ways to manage stress
- Talk with supportive friends
- Get support from family members
- Celebrate small victories
- Applaud your own efforts
- Enjoy a good laugh
- Join a caregiver support group
- Get help when you need it
- Set routines and stay organized
Home Care Tip:
There are many community resources available for caregivers such as adult day care programs, in-home assistance, and meal delivery programs. Contact the Alzheimer’s Association or use this (alz.org/CRF) Resource Finder to locate dementia care resources near you.
How to Care for our Veteran Population
Caregivers can help enhance the quality of life for veterans by advocating on their behalf and helping them find services for their unique needs.
Veterans have sacrificed everything to protect and serve our country. They have served in conflicts around the world for the freedoms that we have today. It is essential that veterans are cared for both physically and mentally, both during and after their time in the service. Throughout the duration of their lives, we should continue to honor and care for them.
According to the 2012 U.S. Census brief (census.gov), there were more than 12.4 million veterans ages 65 and older. With veterans and the population in general having a greater life expectancy than in years past, it’s important that our care can help sustain the public services and special support that these individuals need.
1. Getting the right care
The type of care that veterans may need will vary and can include routine physical care, traumatic brain injury care, treatment for post traumatic stress disorder and other emotional needs, rehabilitation, nutritional and dietary needs, wound injury and trauma, and more. The diversity and uniqueness of the care is as diverse and unique as the individuals who have fought for our country.
2. Paying for care
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides benefits and services for a variety of issues that veterans face.
Compensation can include disability compensation, Special Monthly Compensation (SMC), Adapted Housing grants (benefits.va.gov), Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance (benefits.va.gov), Veterans’ Mortgage Life Insurance (benefits.va.gov), Aid and Attendance (A&A) and Housebound care (benefits.vs.gov), Extended or long-term care and geriatric care.
Much of this compensation is a tax free monetary benefit paid to veterans and/or their spouses, surviving spouses and parents. Which programs each Veteran qualifies for will depend on their unique circumstances.
3. Supporting Mental and Emotional Health
Many veterans need more than just physical care. They need mental and emotional care to help them in dealing with PTSD, depression, suicidal thoughts, hopelessness, anxiety and other issues.
The VA offers mental health care for veterans (mentalhealth.va.gov), and is committed to a recovery-centered approach. Veterans can receive primary care for mental illnesses or receive more intensive treatment in specialty mental health care if necessary.
4. Activities to increase quality of life
Caregivers can help improve the overall quality of life for veterans on a day-to-day basis by engaging with them in different activities.
- Allow them to share stories: Ask veterans stories about when they were younger. Many of them will love to re-live tales from their past and share them with someone else.
- Let them give back: Although veterans have already given so much, it can be important for them to continue this spirit of giving to others. Find a place where they can volunteer. It can help boost confidence and give a sense of purpose.
- Help them find community: Military life has a built-in community and many veterans may miss that once they are no longer active. Help them find a group where they can connect with others and share similar experiences.
- Keep a routine: Many veterans are used to regimented routines and thrive off of schedules. Keep a regular routine each day and allow them to know the schedule. This can give them a sense of peace.
For years these veterans were advocates on behalf of us—whether it was directly or indirectly. We have all benefited from the sacrifices they have made. Caregivers can be their advocates by helping them navigate through various VA benefits, finding mental health solutions and doing daily activities with them that increase their quality of life.
Home Care Tip:
Caregivers should pay attention to veterans and what their individual needs are. Make sure to also recognize the abilities that veterans still have and to acknowledge those as well.