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Reducing Caregiver Stress When Caring for Elderly or Ill Parents

If you’re taking care of elderly parents or an ill loved one, you’re probably stressed! These tips for reducing caregiving stress are from teacher, caregiver, and author of You Want Me to Do What? – B. Lynn Goodwin.

“Caregiver stress can be degrading and demoralizing,” she says. “Avoid the downhill spiral. Start somewhere. Start anywhere. Take care of yourself and you’ll be a better caregiver to your loved one.”

Here are Goodwin’s stress management tips for caregivers…

Take a deep breath and let it out slowly

Slowing down helps your heart stop racing and clears your mind. Also, have a glass of water or a cup of tea. Take it out on the patio or sit on the front stoop. Office workers get a coffee break; why shouldn’t you? If you’re struggling with depression, read How to Manage Stress and Depression – Relaxation Techniques.

Call someone you haven’t seen in a while just to chat

Make a list of people you miss. Do you have phone numbers? Addresses? A great stress management tip is to pick one and reach out. Wouldn’t you like to hear from a long lost friend? If you don’t know whom to call, consider The National Crisis Hotline (1-800-273-TALK) or the Alzheimer’s Association National Hotline (1-800-273-3900).

Join an online or face-to-face support group for caregivers

Google “caregiver support groups” to find resources. Ask other caregivers if they go to any stress management groups. Search in Yahoo groups or AARP for other caregivers — and be specific about your situation (eg, “caregivers for elderly parents” or “caregivers for ill loved ones”).

caregiving stressCheck local chapters of disease-specific organizations, such as the Alzheimer’s Association or the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Most diseases have an organization and a support group. Some meet face-to-face and some meet online. To manage caregiver stress, contact the American Self-Help Clearinghouse. They list a national website, MentalHelp.net, which provides all kinds of resources. If you’re taking care of elderly or ill parents, it helps to know you’re not alone.

Treat yourself to an afternoon off

If you’re not sure what to do with your time off, go to a local coffee shop. Order whatever makes your mouth water. Sit down and make a list of the things you used to love to do. How long since you’ve done any of them? Pick a day and time to give one a try! Even just thinking about the things you enjoy can help relieve caregiver stress.

Make a list of local spots you’d like to revisit. If your elderly parents or ill loved one is up to it, take her along. If not, let her enjoy the stimulation and change of scenery that Adult Daycare can provide and treat yourself!

Try journaling to relieve caregiver stress

Writing gives perspective and restores sanity. It is a lifeline as well as a record. It allows you to vent, delve into issues, and untangle messes. Writing lets you analyze, celebrate, and finish a thought without interruption. Journaling also relieves stress by releasing mental toxins and deepens awareness.

Resources for Caregivers

  • Talk to your local religious service agencies. You don’t have to be a member of the congregation to ask for help or guidance on relieving caregiver stress.
  • Talk to the social service department of your hospital. Many hospitals understand that helping the caregiver helps the patient, especially if the patient is an elderly parent or ill loved one.
  • Contact The Well Spouse Foundation (800-838-0879); they have a list of available support groups. Ask for the one nearest you.
  • Call the Children of Aging Parents, via the Self-Help Clearing House (212-354-8525); they also keep a current list of support groups for caregivers.

If you can’t find someone to cover for you, consider using an Adult Daycare Service in your community. Churches, synagogues, and senior centers offer respite because they recognize that caregivers need to relieve stress.

If you’re considering hiring a paid caregiver, read How to Hire a Caregiver – Getting Help for Elderly or Ill Family Members.

If you have any thoughts or questions on these tips for caregiver stress, please comment below…

B. Lynn Goodwin is published in numerous anthologies, magazines, newspapers, e-zines, and blogs. 

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8 thoughts on “Reducing Caregiver Stress When Caring for Elderly or Ill Parents”

  1. Those sound like wonderful ways to honor your dad. You are very kind. Supporting the primary caregiver is huge. Thanks for being there.

    Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers

  2. My dad has been taking care of my mom who has dementia for seven years now. He deserves a caregiver of the year award! Maybe I’ll talk to my husband about sending dad on a vacation for a week, or even just the weekend, because he deserves a break. He takes care of her 24/7 without any help, besides me every week for a couple of hours.

  3. This is a great idea, Laurie. I love the list you’ve started there. So, readers, help us out. Who are you going to honor and how will you celebrate National Caregiver’s Month?

    Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers

  4. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    You know, I think this could be its own article! “10 Ways to Celebrate National Caregiver’s Month”……and I think pampering for caregivers would be high up on the list. Massage, pedicure, manicure, facial, maybe even a makeover.

    And, a homemade gift certificate from a family member that allows the caregiver to take a break when necessary. The caregiver can get out of the house for a couple of hours when she needs to leave…simply by giving the gift certificate to the family member. 🙂

  5. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    No, I didn’t know that November is National Caregivers Month…cool! I hope caregivers find a special way to celebrate, and be taken care of for a change 🙂

  6. I just found your response. Thank you so much.

    Did you know that November is National Caregivers Month?

    B. Lynn Goodwin
    Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers