Where Passion Meets Reality!
6.04.2016 Mary Yamin-Garone, DeMystifying Alzheimer’s did a podcast program on Self-Care Tips for Caregivers
Good afternoon. Welcome to Demystifying Alzheimer’s. I’m your hostess Mary Yamin-Garone.
Today’s topic is “Self-CareTips for Caregivers.”
You’re on an airplane when an oxygen mask drops in front of you. What do you do? Most of us know the first rule is to put on your oxygen mask before you help someone else. Only when we help ourselves can we effectively help others.
Caring for yourself is one of the most important—and most forgotten—things you can do as a caregiver. When you’re taken care of the person you care for benefits, too.
Oftentimes we hear, “My wife is the one who has Alzheimer’s but I’m the one in the hospital.” This situation is becoming all too common. Research shows that if you’re a caregiver between 66 and 96 and are experiencing mental or emotional stress, your risk of dying is 63 percent higher than those your age who aren’t caregivers. When you combine loss, stress, the physical demands of caregiving and the biological susceptibilities that come with age, it puts you at risk for significant health problems and possibly an earlier death.
It’s not just older people who put their health and well-being in jeopardy. Baby boomers who are caring for aging parents while balancing work and family put themselves at a greater risk for things like depression, prolonged illness and a decline in their quality of life.
Despite these risks, caregivers of any age are less likely than non-caregivers to practice preemptive healthcare and take care of themselves. Regardless of age, sex, race and ethnicity, caregivers describe problems taking care of their own health and welfare while managing their caregiving responsibilities.
· Being sleep deprived
· Having bad eating habits
· Failing to exercise
· Failing to stay in bed when they’re sick
· Postponing or failing to make their own doctor’s appointments
Caregiving can be an emotional roller coaster. On one hand, caring for your family member shows your love and commitment and can be a rewarding experience. On the other hand, fatigue, worry, insufficient resources and constant care demands are extremely stressful. Caregivers are more prone to a chronic illness, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and being overweight.
You can’t stop the impact Alzheimer’s has on someone you love. There is, however, a lot you can do to take responsibility for your well-being.
The first thing is identifying personal barriers.
Many times, your own attitudes and beliefs create roadblocks that keep you from taking care of yourself. As a caregiver, you need to ask yourself what good you’ll be to the person your caring for should you become ill or die. Breaking old patterns and overcoming obstacles isn’t easy but it’s possible. It doesn’t matter what your age or situation. First you have to identify what’s stopping you.
· Do you think you’re being selfish if you put your needs first?
· Is it frightening to think of your own needs? What’s the nature of that fear?
· Do you have difficulty asking for what you need? Do you feel inadequate if you ask for help?
As a caregiver, sometimes you have misconceptions that increase your stress and get in the way of taking care of yourself.
Some common ones include:
· I’m responsible for my parents.
· If I don’t do it, who will?
· Our family always takes care of each other.
· I promised my mother I’d take care of my father.
Basing your behavior on your thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and misconceptions can result in constantly trying to do what can’t be done; to control what can’t be controlled. The result is feelings of failure and frustration and often a predisposition to ignore your own needs.
Once you’ve identified any personal barriers to self-care, you can start changing your behavior, one step at a time.
Here are some effective self-care tools to start you on your way.
Reduce stress. How we perceive and respond to an event is significant to how we adjust and handle it. That stress is not only the result of your caregiving responsibilites but also how you perceive it. Do you see the glass as half-full or half-empty?
Your stress level is influenced by many factors, such as:
· Whether your caregiving is voluntary. If you feel you didn’t have a choice in taking on the responsibilities, chances are you’ll feel strained, distressed and resentful.
· Your relationship with the care recipient. Sometimes individuals care for someone in the hopes of mending a relationship. If that doesn’t happen, you might feel regret and discouraged.
· Your coping abilities. How you coped with stress in the past predicts how you’ll cope now. Identify your current coping strengths so you can build on them.
· Your caregiving situation. Some situations are more stressful than others. For example, caring for a person with Alzheimer’s often is more demanding than caring for someone with physical restrictions.
Here are some steps to take to manage your stress.
· Recognize warning signs early. They can include irritability, difficulty sleeping and absentmindedness. Know your own warning signs and make changes. Don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed.
· Identify stressors. What’s causing your stress? It could be you have too much to do, family disagreements, feelings of inadequacy or not being able to say no.
· Identify what you can and cannot change. Remember, you can only change yourself. Attempting to change things over which you have no control only increases your frustration. Small changes can make a big difference.
· Take action. Taking some action to lower stress gives you a sense of control. Stress reducers can be as simple as walking, gardening, meditating or having coffee with a friend. It’s important to identify some stress reducers that work for you.
Setting Goals. Setting goals or deciding what you want to accomplish in the next three to six months is important for taking care of yourself. Your goals could include:
· Taking a break from caregiving.
· Getting help with tasks like bathing and preparing meals.
· Engaging in activities that will make you feel healthier. Once you’ve set your goal, devise an action plan, decide what your first step will be and when you’ll take it. Then it’s time to get started.
If your goal is to get healthy, your possible action could be to:
· Schedule an appointment for a check-up.
· Take a 30 minute break at least once a week.
· Walk three times a week for at least 10 minutes.
That’s all for today. Thanks for listening. I hope this information was helpful.
Join me at 1 pm Monday when I’ll discuss more self-care tips for family caregivers.