When you look under the tree this holiday season, you might see lots of brightly wrapped gifts, a few remaining bites of Santa’s cookies, and maybe a toy train ready to roll for the grandkids. What you won’t see, though, is a special box containing exactly what you may need most: answers on how to relieve caregiver stress.
At Heritage Communities, we understand how important it is for you to take good care of yourself while you are taking care of an older loved one. Especially during the holidays, when it can feel like your energy is being depleted even more rapidly than usual. Here are some signs you need a break, some suggestions on what you can do, and why a respite stay for your loved one might be just the gift you both need.
All May Not Be Merry: Signs of Caregiver Stress
The Mayo Clinic reminds us that too much stress, especially over a long time, can harm your health. As a caregiver, you’re more likely to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety. In addition, you may not get enough sleep or physical activity, or eat a balanced diet — which increases your risk of medical problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.
It’s understandable that you may be focused on your loved one and not even realize that you are experiencing signs of caregiver stress. Here are some signs of caregiver stress to watch out for:
- Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
- Feeling tired too often
- Getting too much/not enough sleep
- Gaining or losing weight
- Becoming easily irritated or angry
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling sad
- Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems
- Relying more heavily on alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
Why Taking a Break is a Gift for You Both
You want to be there for your loved one. You may also have a family that depends upon you to take the lead in the holiday celebrations, cooking meals, shopping, decorating, and arranging get-togethers. Remember, there is only so much you can do. There are people around you—friends, family and support groups—who can help you enjoy the season without letting caregiver stress overwhelm you.
How to take care of yourself—and make the most of your holidays:
- Accept help. Make a list of what other family members can do: run errands, help decorate, prepare meals, arrange transportation for medical appointments, sit with your loved one while you go shopping, and so on. People generally want to help but don’t always know how. Assign these tasks and share the responsibilities.
- Focus on what you can do. It may feel like everything is up to you. But remind yourself, you cannot do everything. You should not do everything, especially when there’s help available from family, friends, and professionals. Just doing a few simple tasks the best you can is enough. The house does not have to have all the decorations up. The refrigerator does not have to have 10 kinds of cookies in it. Keep it simple!
- Set realistic goals. Maybe one day is just for a family lunch. The next day is for trimming a small tree. Break up your tasks into small bites and prioritize what really matters. Say no when you know it’s the smart thing to do.
- Join a support group. Sometimes it’s easier to talk with people who are not related to you but who are sharing your experience. Give yourself the opportunity to express your frustrations and setbacks about caregiver stress. It’s a great way to relieve the pressure and find someone on whom you can call upon occasionally.
- Maintain your own health. Caregiver stress is sneaky. Before you know it, the day is almost over and you haven’t eaten, sat down, exercised, or done anything to help you stay healthy and fit. Don’t forget: your health matters too! Be sure you eat healthy meals. Ask a friend to sit with your loved one so you can take a brisk walk or head to the gym. Take a nap when your loved one takes one. Your health is important—and it’s up to you.
- Consider respite care. Resting and recharging is so important for your mental and physical health, especially when you’re a caregiver to someone else. And your loved one might benefit from a new setting and new faces occasionally. Respite care is a short term stay in a senior living community that gives you both what you need: a time to rest and to recharge. At Heritage Communities, assisted living respite stays offer you the reassurance that your loved one is safe and cared for. In addition, they can experience all the advantages of senior living and get a comfortable introduction into what this exceptional lifestyle offers. And at the same time, you are getting a much needed break in which to travel, visit friends, or just rest.
At Heritage Communities, we are here to help you during the holidays, and every day of the year. If you have questions about how to make the right senior living choice for a loved one, download our free guide, Family Decision Toolkit: How to choose the right senior living community. Or contact us today.