Caregiver Focus: How to Deal With Caregiver Stress

Tim Watt  |  November 16, 2012

Caregivers tend to be hard on themselves, as looking out for the well-being of a loved one is an extremely important and meaningful job. However, one place where caregivers should cut themselves some slack is dealing with their feelings of stress and burnout. Even the strongest person can suffer from feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, frustration or depression that often accompany the caregiving role, and it's important that everyone deals with these effects appropriately to ensure their own well-being and that of their loved one.

•   Accept help. People may be asking what they can do to help you, but you feel as though you are the only one who is capable of completing many of the jobs involved in caregiving. The Mayo Clinic recommends making a list of tasks someone else could complete, so next time you are asked, you are prepared and others can choose which way they'd like to help. A friend could pick up groceries for you, or a relative could take your loved one for a walk. Caregivers should also learn how to ask for help. The list can also be a useful tool in doing this, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health reports.

•   Get connected. Connecting with others, whether meeting a friend for coffee each week or joining a support group in your area, can address several symptoms of caregiver stress and burnout. Support groups may teach you tips on how to better care for your loved one to ease some of your caregiving anxieties, and talking to people who understand what you are going through is great for morale. The organization reports that maintaining a social network of friends and family is crucial to managing stress, and spending time with others can be a great break for you.

•   Focus on your health. Caregivers tend to put their own health needs on the back burner, which is one of the reasons they tend to have higher rates of chronic illness. The Alzheimer's Association urges caregivers to visit their doctors regularly and report any sleeplessness, as well as changes in appetite or other behaviors. The organization also recommends caregivers establish a regimen of exercise and maintain a healthy diet to support physical, emotional and mental well-being.

More than anything, it is important for caregivers to give themselves a break. This could be going for a 15-minute walk by yourself in the morning, or taking a night off each week for a date with your spouse. By asking for help, caregivers can make room in their schedule for their own needs as well as those of their loved one. Lastly, by seeking out caregiver resources, those caring for loved ones with memory loss can find tools and gain knowledge on how to make their job even more fulfilling.