Reducing Stress in Senior Care: 5 Effective Coping Strategies to Ease the Burden
All steps for caregiving experience
This article provides an overview of the risk factors and warning signs of caregiver stress, as well as five effective coping strategies to reduce stress in senior care.
- Recognize the seven risk factors for caregiver stress.
- Look out for signs of caregiver stress.
- Utilize available resources and take care of yourself.
- Accept help from others.
- Focus on the good you bring as a caregiver.
Whether you are caring for a parent or a spouse, you likely know that caregiving can be very rewarding. However, it can also be very stressful and learning to recognize the warning signs, risk factors, and coping strategies for caregiver stress are key to safeguarding the health of both you and your loved one.
Risk Factors for Caregiver Stress
As a caregiver, you may forget to check into your own health. It is important, though, to recognize the risk factors for caregiver stress. The Mayo Clinic lists the following seven red flags:
- Living with depression
- Financial constraints
- Social isolation
- Co-habitation with the caregiving recipient
- Lack of coping skills
- Lack of choice in caregiving
- Higher number of hours spent caregiving
Signs of Caregiver Stress
Caregivers are especially susceptible to experiencing changes in their physical and mental health. Be sure to look out for these signs that caregiver stress is present:
- Feelings of sadness
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Feelings of guilt around caregiving or other daily activities
- Lack of energy
- Loss of focus or concentration
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Too much sleep or too little sleep
- Increased anxiety or irritability
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Increased smoking or abusing alcohol/drugs
- Social withdrawal
- Anger/frustration toward the caregiving recipient
- Denial about a loved one’s condition
Strategies to Reduce Caregiver Stress
Though many things factor into caregiver stress, lack of resources and self-care are major contributors. It is important to utilize tools and resources available to you, and to take care of yourself. After all, if you don’t take care of yourself first then you will not be able to care as well for your loved one. Building on this concept, here are five simple strategies to reduce caregiver stress:
- Accept help from others. Take up the offer for a friend to help you by bringing over a meal, or for a neighbor to help by mowing the yard. These kind gestures can take enormous stress off of you as a caregiver, as you have slightly less on your plate to worry about. It also helps form social connections, which is important to your health and wellbeing. Preparing a list of things others can do to help you is also a great way to share which tasks are really needed.
- Take care of your health. Taking care of yourself ensures that you are able to best take care of your loved one, and keeping up with your health is a major part of this. Set personal goals for yourself related to sleep hygiene, physical activity, and dietary habits. Make sure your doctor’s appointments are on schedule, and stay up to date on vaccinations and preventive screenings.
- Keep connected. Caregiving resources may be available in your community, including classes and social support groups (online support groups are available as well). These give you a chance to meet other caregivers with similar stories and form new connections with people with people who can relate with you. Make an effort to also stay in contact with family and friends, setting up a regular schedule for connecting with your loved ones over the phone or other means.
- Enjoy time to yourself. Do things or hobbies you enjoy that help you relax. Be proactive about your mental health, and if you have trouble relaxing away from caregiving give thought to seeing a mental healthcare professional for help.
- Focus on the good you bring as a caregiver. It is easy to dwell on aspects of caregiving that you cannot change, like your loved one’s overall health. Try instead to focus on the things you can change like helping them prolong their independence and improving their daily lives. You make a huge difference in the life of your loved one, and you should not forget that your presence is important and invaluable.