Apr 302012

Caregiver’s of elderly parents are stressed. Emotionally, physically, mentally and in some cases spiritually. Even in the best of situations, it is hard. As a result, caregivers are at high risk for burnout. Burnout is much easier to prevent than to treat and today I am going to introduce you to two people who can help you reduce your stress: Cherie Miranda and Annie Born. But first, a little information on burnout.

Signs of Burnout

  • Changes in your sleep or eating habits
  • Increase in use of sugar, alcohol, drugs or tobacco products
  • Increase in back aches or headaches and resulting increase in use of over-the-counter or prescription pain killers
  • Irritability, impatience, increase in fear or anxiety
  • Inability to handle problems or crisis
  • Overreacting to criticism or everyday annoyances and accidents
  • Excessive anger toward parents, spouse or children
  • Feelings of withdrawal, alienation, being trapped, hopelessness
  • Wanting to run away or disappear
  • Inability to laugh or feel joy, loss of compassion
  • Withdrawal from activities and from interaction with others
  • Feeling alone even with family and friends
  • Resentment towards your parents, spouse, or children
  • Neglecting or mistreating your parents
  • Wishing it would just be over with or wishing your parents would “hurry up and die”

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is time for a break and some help. Depending on the severity of your reaction, you may need to physically remove yourself from the situation and seek local professional guidance.

What To Do

As stated previously it is much easier to prevent burnout than to treat it. Why wait until you are miserable to seek help?

Annie Born has a gift for helping the caregiver (You) take care of yourself. She has a blog where she gives you the information and inspiration you need to take care of yourself. You should check out her site. You will be glad you did!

Cherie Miranda is a very astute lady.  She also has a great blog where she explains about meditation, what it is and what it is not, how to do it and the benefits.

After watching a few online conversations she realized that caregiver stress is different from normal stressors. She knew she could help and she came up with the idea to make a special meditation just for caregivers! I am excited about it and even though it is not ready yet it is just something I think is very much-needed. I will let you know when it is ready! In the meantime check out her site. There is a lot of good stuff there.

Apr 252012

Caregiver StressWelcome back. Have you got your list from yesterday? Good.

Today we will look at resources for some of the most common problems I have noticed most caregiver’s going through. This list is by no means complete, merely a few suggestions that might help.

Needing a break: That is a biggie. You absolutely must get away from it all from time to time. I am assuming you have already asked family to help out and they are doing all they can/will.

Can you afford a sitter? Yes? Hire one! Even if it is only half a day a week, do it. Cannot afford a sitter? Call your local Senior Citizen’s Center or Council on Aging or whatever they call it in your area. They can often provide that service for a few hours a week.

Look around your community. See what services are available. Call one or two home care agencies and hospices. The nurse’s have a Rolodex of sitters and resources.

What about you parent’s social circle? Has your dad got a friend or two that could come visit? (Please substitute your own spiritual practice here). Could your mom’s Sunday School class come do a Bible study with her? Is there a teenager who is willing to help in exchange for you helping them with math or teaching them the piano?

Ah, ha! Another list. What can you barter for services? Tired of cooking? Get with a friend and exchange cooking one or two nights a week. You cook on Monday’s and she will cook on Thursday. If you know someone else who is caring for an elderly parent, schedule a play date. Take your parent over to the friend’s house, they visit, you visit or go shopping, next time it is at your house and you serve the punch and cookies.

Is your major problem your parent’s behavior? Does your local mental health center, hospital, anybody, offer classes on handling difficult patients? Perhaps you need some help in setting limits, practice with friends. Also check local support groups, especially those supporting Alzheimer’s and dementia. Is their behavior endangering themselves or others? Get professional help.

Ask everyone! People love to help others. It makes them feel good about themselves. They do not want to be taken advantage of so you have a long list and spread it around.

Need something fixed or done? Salesmen. One of the things I miss about living in town is door-to-door salesmen. I have had them help me move furniture, put together my son’s swing set, teach me to change the light in my ceiling fan, among other things.

My mom taught me to love telemarketers. When they call asking for me she either tells them I am in some exotic country for a year studying some bizarre species of plant/animal and leaving her alone to fend for herself, and she is helpless and on and on she goes. Or I am touring Europe, like I have nothing better to do when she needs me here to wait on her. If they ask for her she will tell them all her problems and a few she doesn’t have but sound really good.

There you go. Tell your woes to salespeople and telemarketers! And you used to think those people were annoying. Get creative. Now take your lists, go to your friends and instead of bemoaning your stress, brainstorm solutions.

You might also want to consider a professional to help you figure out solutions. There are coaches who have been where you are and can really help you. They understand what you are going through and can give you objective guidance, something friends often can not do. You have more resources than you realize. And your friends have resources. You don’t have to do this alone nor should you. Allow people to bless you.

Apr 242012

Caregiver’s of elderly parents are under a tremendous amount of stress.

April is National Stress Awareness Month. Are you aware of your stress? Of course you are, it’s a frequent companion. I debated on writing on the subject for a while due to the plethora of information already out there. I looked over the standard fare: make time for yourself, set your priorities, network and get people to help you, meditate, let go of what you can, and my least favorite of all, talk it out with a friend. Really? Talking it out with a friend may be the worst thing you can do. Bear with me here; this is not your average, “Bless your heart, you poor thing” kind of post.

We all need sympathy and understanding from time to time but if the problem is still there for any length of time, perhaps it is time to take a different approach. Friends mean well, they will empathize with you and support you in your misery and pretty much help you stay in that misery if you are not careful. At least until they get tired of hearing your story. And aren’t you tired of hearing it? Seriously? This is not my area of expertise but here are a few strategies you can use:

1. Identify what is stressing you. Specifically. Not that your mom is driving you crazy, but the behavior that is driving you crazy. Write it all down. The cooking, the cleaning, the endless laundry. The doctor’s appointments, the medicines, the bills, etc.

2. Now look at your list. How much of what you just wrote is just frustration, overwhelm and you trying to be all things to all people? How much of it truly a problem? Separate them out. For instance, my mom has chronic pain, severe and at times it is horrific and she moans. Every time she moves she moans and doesn’t even realize she’s doing it. She moans so much, one of our dogs started doing it every time he lay down. Some days it will drive me up the wall. (Headphones! And my iPod have saved us all). It is annoying but not a real problem. Her resistance at going back to her pain management doctor, for that is a real problem.

3. Take an objective look. List every solution for every problem that you can think of. Even if you have no idea how to make it happened. No excuses. Put down actionable steps that can be taken by someone, not necessarily you. Do not leave out anything even something you might be against, like putting dad in a nursing home. It is an option.

4. Write down what you feel would help you to cope. One day a week off? Maybe you just need to go to worship services once a week or you just want an evening with friends. How about someone to help with the cooking and laundry or to take dad to the park? Put it on paper where you can see it.

Now go ponder on all this and write it all down and we will come back tomorrow and look at it again.