This section was adapted from the “United Way Metro Vancouver Family & Friends Caregivers Information and Resource Handbook 2016/17”
In addition to tapping into resources such as caregiver education programs, support groups, information on websites, respite programs, counselling and financial support resources, these are some other ways to can reduce and manage stress:
1.) A List of Techniques: Acceptance (some things cannot be changed), aromatherapy, art, avoiding people who drain you (energy vampires), bathing, breath, comedy, dancing, don’t ‘should’ on yourself, esthetic care (including hair care, nail care and spa treatments), eating out or ordering in, exercise, forgiveness, gardening, healthy nutrition, journaling/writing, massage, mindfulness meditation, (using compassionate, non-judgmental awareness to notice your feelings and thoughts and see how transient they are – just observe/witness your mind without judgment to help gain perspective and distance – you can let difficult thoughts and feelings freely flow through you, without getting caught up in them or pushed around by them, and without getting into a struggle with them), music, pet therapy, pick your battles carefully, prayer, reading, recreation programs at your local community centre or seniors centre, relaxation tapes, CDs and DVDs, time in nature, saying ‘no’, sex, sleeping, socializing, stop striving for perfection (examine your standards), yoga… Add your favourites here, and if you can’t think of anything off hand, write down your biggest source/s of stress and analyze it/them here:
2.) Acknowledging the right of care recipients to live at risk. One challenge we face is getting our loved one/care recipient to accept help. It’s especially difficult when the caregiver is an adult child and the care recipient is the parent, although it can also be challenging with a spouse, sibling or friend. Remember that regardless of their frailty, our care recipients are autonomous adults who have the right to make their own decisions and the right to live at risk – providing they are not mentally incompetent or posing a direct threat to others.
This idea of having the right to live at risk is one of the most difficult ideas for caregivers to get their heads around as we never want to see our loved ones in danger or at risk. However, if we do not accept their rights, we cause ourselves unnecessary stress by trying to control the behaviour of our care recipient. Also, when we don’t value another’s autonomy and try to control their behavior, we may unwittingly increase their level of dependence and loss of self-esteem prematurely. The Government of Canada National Advisory Council on Aging (since renamed the National Seniors Council) provides an article on this topic Rights and Limits to Risk.
3.) Be mindful of the challenges faced by the person you are caring for. The following article acknowledges some of the stresses our loved ones are living with related to their frailty and helps remind us that they too are doing their best to cope with a lot of stress:
“What does it mean to be a care recipient?” Just as caregivers have mixed feelings about caregiving, the person receiving care is also likely going to be experiencing strong feelings. From a care receiver’s perspective many things change as the need for care increases. Many of these changes are very difficult and may cause the care receiver to feel afraid, angry, ashamed, frustrated, helpless, lonely or depressed. Some of the issues that precipitate these feelings are:
- Threats to independence such as loss of a driver’s license, dependency on others, health problems that compromise senses and mobility, and so forth;
- Threats to dignity such as embarrassing health problems, lack of financial resources, having to ask for help with daily living activities, having to accept help, and being around others who do not respect elders;
- Personal safety within one’s home, in public places and with one’s caregiver;
- Worry, inconvenience, expenses, and losses associated with health problems;
- Financial management and concerns about having sufficient finances to get to the end of one’s life;
- Social isolation due to immobility, lack of transportation, compromised senses, living far away from others, and loss of friends through death or illness;
- Grieving the loss of youth, health, life, friends, independence, meaningful work, and possibly preparing for one’s own death;
- Loss of power in decision-making about matters related to one’s own life.
These experiences and strong feelings can lead to behaviors that might be difficult for the care receiver and the caregiver. For example, some people may resist getting help, may refuse to admit they need help or become very demanding. This can be very upsetting for the whole family, but if you try to remember that it is a reaction to the fear of losing control and that some of the responses are the person’s way of coping, it might be easier to deal with the behaviors. Also, try to put yourself in their position and think about how you’d like to be treated. Some ideas to help your loved one cope with the situation are:
- Involve the care receiver in all decisions related to their care, unless cognitive impairment is at a stage where this is not possible. Remember that it is their life.
- Try to set up a caregiving routine so everyone knows what to expect
- Try to involve the care receiver in decisions related to the caregiving routine
- Try not to over-help. You may be tempted to take over everything; however, try to encourage your loved one to do whatever he/she can for himself/herself
- Listen! Reassure! Be respectful!
From Family Resource Guide for Family Caregivers Published by Family Caregivers Network Society. Section adapted from Our Aging Parents, Written by Clarissa P. Green, Consulting and Counselling.