6 ways to reduce caregiver stress

Supporting a parent or loved one with dementia or another illness can demand a lot of time and energy from a caregiver. By providing care for your loved one during their time of need, you are showing them the love and loyalty they deserve, but it can sometimes take a toll on your health, too.

A study conducted by the Alberta Medical Association found that 25 per cent of Alberta's family caregivers are dedicating more than 12 hours a week to their aging loved one, with 19% of the population admitting to caring for a family member or friend, and 58% admitting that they will likely be taking care of an aging loved one at some point in their lives. Worryingly, AMA President Carl Nohr told Edmonton's 630 CHED News that 42 per cent of the caregivers in the survey also rated their stress levels between eight and 10 on a 10-point scale.

At the end of the day, as a caregiver, it is crucial to take care of yourself in the same way you care for a loved one. Here are 6 ways to help reduce caregiver stress:

1. Prepare by learning about the disease or illness
Whether your loved one is living with Alzheimer's disease or managing another illness or mobility issue, strengthen your knowledge about their condition to prepare yourself for the changes that will occur along the course of your loved one's life.

2. Accept your feelings
Helpguide believes it is very important to accept all of your emotions—both good and bad— as a caregiver. Having emotions is natural, so don't feel bad if you aren't always feeling great about your role. Talk about your feelings to someone you can trust to help lift your spirits and as a reminder that you are a loving caregiver.

Show your loved one care and compassion as a caregiver.
Show your loved one care and compassion as a caregiver.

3. Identify what you can and cannot change
Don't let the things you cannot control get the best of you, such as the condition of your loved one and the way they are feeling. The Family Caregiver Alliance suggests focusing on the things you can change. Make it your mission to achieve these goals and watch your stress level drop.

4. Always stay positive
Your attitude can make a difference in the way you feel as well as the way others perceive you. By staying positive, you can make the best of every day for both you and the one you are caring for.

5. Take care of yourself
As a caregiver, you are looking out for someone and making sure he or she is healthy. It's critical to stay conscious about your health, too. Besides getting enough rest, eating regularly and exercising often, it's also important to take breaks from caregiving. The Alzheimer Society of Canada says not to wait until you are exhausted to make caregiving arrangements, but to plan out when you will be taking breaks. By relaxing and giving yourself "me" time, you can stay motivated to continue on in your role and provide the attention and care your loved one deserves.

6. Don't be afraid to reach out for help
Although it may be hard to admit, sometimes the best course of action for you and your loved one is to reach out for the help you both need. If you find your stress levels are becoming too much and other areas of your life—such as work or a young family—are suffering as a result, it may be time to reach out to a retirement or long term care residence to see what care and living solutions they can offer. This is especially important if your loved one's condition requires more assistance and expertise that you're able to give, so don't be afraid to look into other options or reach out to friends, your loved one's doctor or even community support groups like the Alzheimer Society for more information and advice.

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