How to Manage the Stress of Caring for an Aging Loved One
Caring for aging parents can be stressful. Today, most caregivers are juggling work and caring for their own young families, which can lead to burnout — stress and anxiety that can leave adult children feeling overwhelmed.
Through ongoing stress management techniques plus other responsibility shifts, you cannot only cope, but thrive.
Breathe, then reassess the situation
It’s easy for everything to feel like an emergency when you’re in the midst of it – kids’ homework, mom’s doctors’ appointments, a looming project at work. But unless there’s a true fire to put out, give yourself permission to stop. Close your eyes, breathe slowly for 30 seconds and allow your mind to slow down. Reassess what’s really the priority in that moment and what can wait. With proper perspective, you’ll be able to better assess what’s real and what’s simply noise.
Ask for help – and accept it
There may come times when you feel like you’re letting someone down or that your efforts are missing the mark or that there is just simply too much of everything to manage. And there are countless reasons caregivers shy away from asking for or accepting help, but don’t fall into the trap. Ask yourself, is there someone who could jump in and lend a hand? Could a neighbor drive the kids to soccer or recommend a cleaning lady/babysitter/home nurse? Can a sibling take dad to his checkup? Could work responsibilities be reallocated for the time being, giving you more flexibility? Does it make sense, practically and financially, to bring in a part-time nurse’s aid?
Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign you’re human. With some added hands in the mix, you’ll be able to better focus on the things that you need to manage. This will help you make decisions from a place of clarity, while freeing up time for something that truly matters: you and your well-being.
Start saying no
Caregivers can find themselves in a constant pattern of yes. They’re so used to saying yes – to the school commitments, the work requests, the pickups, the errands — that saying no feels awkward or uncomfortable. Give yourself permission to say no to the things that don’t need your attention, such as the neighborhood potluck or your annual spring tag sale.
Find a friendly ear
Sometimes it helps just to vent. But be sure that you have a friendly ear to turn to when things get bumpy. It could be a spouse, good friend, caring relative, therapist or caregiver support group – anyone you feel comfortable opening up to. Sharing your feelings helps you gain an immediate perspective that’s hard to realize when you’re in the midst of it all.
Let go of guilt – and forgive yourself
Guilt is a wasted emotion – it accomplishes nothing except making you feel bad about what you could have or should have done. Ditch the guilt and focus on all of the great things you’ve accomplished for yourself and your family. And when you find yourself feeling guilty or less than perfect, move on. No one is perfect and no one could possibly manage all that you’re juggling every day. So take a breath and tell yourself it’s OK.
For more information on caring for your loved ones, visit the Caregiving section on HEALTHY ESSENTIALS®.
©Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2016