Care for the elderly in home can be overwhelming. To elder care stress relief it is important for the caregiver, or potential caregiver, to help the aging adult organize and plan for the unplanned events in life. Taking a proactive approach with the aging adults in your life will save you time, energy, money and A LOT of unneccessary stress.
Of course ,it is always best to attempt to plan for the unplanned emergency and get all paperwork and legal papers in order while the aging adult in your life is still well. It is not always possible. Many families are unable to have the necessary discussions or are in denial insisting that everything will be fine. Then, one day, a phone call comes in, and it is the local hospital, your aging loved one is in the emergency room and the news is not good. There is a rush to the hospital, and the healthcare professionals have many questions that you are unable to answer. While your aging loved one is in the hospital, you now are left to look for important papers and do other things like pay the bills for your loved one.
You may even have to make serious life altering decisions, under duress, because these were subjects that just are not discussed. This is an everyday occurrence in every hospital in the country. Families are faced with the stress of making decisions they are unprepared to make, provide information they must research. Many start writing things on scraps of paper. There is the “to do” list, the appointment list, names and numbers of healthcare providers, your own schedule and maybe even your families schedule. Care giving can be overwhelming and can cause an incredible amount of unnecessary stress.
Avoid unnecessary elder care stress. Care for the elderly in home requires planning and organization. The key to survival is planning and organization.
Planning is important as we age. We all want to maintain control, independence and our dignity as we grow older. Being proactive and discussing the important issues with our loved ones, even putting our wishes in writing, gives the aging adult control over their lives even when they can no longer speak for themselves. Organization is important. There are so many aspects of our lives that we take for granted. When you care for the elderly in home, it is important to have things in one place and information easily accessible to make life easier.
The first step is to write things down. When you start your caregiver’s journey, have a notebook and pen with you at all times. Stress causes distractions and you may tend to forget things. At home, it is important to get all the medical, legal, financial, home maintenance, religious and social information together and put in an easily accessible place.
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Develop a system where all the names, addresses and phone numbers are in one spot for ease and accessibility. The medical information is important, as good record keeping can delay time wasted when treatment is necessary. Good record keeping can also prevent another invasive or painful test being preformed. It is important to have the name, telephone number, address and specialty of each health care provider that cares for your aging loved one. Develop a master schedule, to keep track of when medications need to be reordered, appointments are scheduled, when the trash it to go out etc. It sounds silly, but care giving is intermittent, unpredictable and overwhelming at times. It is easy to get distracted and forget something.
Develop a file system. Sections for filing will be medical bills, legal papers, resources, financial papers. Paperwork can pile up, so make a file for things that will need to be filed. When things get overwhelming, filing may be a task to delegate to another family member.
Keep a log of those that you talk with in regards to the care of your aging loved one. A call log with the name of the individual you spoke with, date and time and a brief snippet what the call was about is important in case something is missed or care is delayed. Learn to make copies of medical bills, medication scripts; if you are mailing them, insurance claims anything that you are mailing out and any important legal documents.
Always have a backup plan in place. If there is an emergency, or if the primary caregiver is suddenly ill, there must be an alternative plan in place for someone else to step in. Expect that life will have many unplanned events. Try and prepare for the unexpected. Avoid elder care stress by being prepared. Care for the elderly in home requires one to be very organized.
It is important to ask questions, make sure you understand the answers so that you can learn, plan and be organized for those unplanned life events. If you’re like many people with Alzheimer caregiver stress, it means you’re either the adult child or the spouse of a loved one with this devastating disease. Like many other people in your position you probably worry, “What happens if I get sick and can’t provide for my mom/dad. For many people stress plays a large part in maintaining your health.
Alzheimer Caregiver Stress Is Chronic Stress
First, let’s look at chronic stress. Alzheimer caregiving stress, for example, is considered chronic stress because it’s the result of constant exposure to circumstances and conditions often beyond your control that cause a hyper-alert state. You’re frequently dealing with unpredictable and/or volatile situations and irrational behavior. To compound the problem you are often without reliable recourse that is dependable and consistent. Living under such difficult, emotional pressure has long-term effects on your mental health, like clinical depression. But it also has bearing on your physical heath.
In fact, the past 20 years of research shows that people who suffer from chronic stress, are at much greater risk FOR heart attacks, strokes, and even cancer than others in their age bracket. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, 50% of caregivers die before the person they are caring for. It’s theorized that chronic stress, which weakens the physical body, (and dampens the immune system) is the main culprits for this high mortality rate.
What Happens Physically During Caregiver Stress?
First realize that stress is not an emotional state, but rather a physiological reaction that occurs in your body. Doctors refer to it as the hypothalamic pituitary axis; the connection between the hypothalamus, pituitary and the adrenal gland. These three ‘elements’ work together in a stressful situation to put the body into a heightened state of preparation to overcome a potentially life threatening event. This stress reaction is actually a left over from a survival mechanism called, “Fight or Flight.”
When faced with tremendous stress, where survival might hang in the balance, humans have one of two instant reactions – run from the situation (flight) or meet the challenge head-on (fight). How a person reacts will differ from one to the next. But the thing that is consistent is the hypothalamic pituitary axis (HPA) itself. Everyone under stress has the HPA system which regulates:
• Blood Pressure
• Heart Rate
• Body Temperature
• Blood Circulation
• Among many other activities
When stress becomes great, the HPA system takes over in a matter of seconds. Blood circulation is diverted from the extremities to internal organs. Adrenaline is secreted in massive amounts for instant energy. The adrenal gland starts producing and releasing steroid hormones, including the primary stress hormone cortisol. This hormone travels to all areas including the heart, lungs, circulation, metabolism, immune systems and skin. Now, if a bear in the wild (or a thug on a street city corner) attacks you, then this HPA system can literally be a lifesaver. But here’s the problem as it relates to Alzheimer caregiver stress… When stress becomes routine, so is this constant biochemical release that, over time, actually harms the body in various ways such as:
• Decreased immune system
• Greater chance for infection and disease
• Digestive tract problems like ulcers
• Lung problems like asthma
• Heart disease, which causes strokes and heart attacks
The HPA system is an intelligent design within the human race. The problem is it doesn’t automatically distinguish caregiver stress that is continuous, day after day, from a bear attack, which is temporary. That means the stress that caregivers endure is chronic, and therefore, more debilitating to the human body. The good news is there are ways to combat its effects.
How Does Stress Management Help with Alzheimer caregiver stress? Good question! And that’s the main purpose of this website, because caregiver stress is practically unavoidable. But what we can do is minimize it as much as possible. There are two ways to do that:
1. Seek out and learn about as many services, programs and products as possible. Armed and educated, we can choose the ones that will save us money, or save us work, or help us be better at what we do for our loved one.
2. Find ways to lessen our remaining stress, turn off that HPA system, enjoy life, and find better ways to cope. Proven relaxation techniques include:
• Guided Imagery
• Meditation & Prayer
• Utilizing Adult Day Care
• Asking Friends and Relatives for help
• Listening to Music
• Going to the Movies
• Massage Therapy
• Going for a Walk
The bottom line is simple…if you don’t accept help or address your stress your HPA system will tear down your body. With 50% of all caregivers dying before those they care for, it’s important that as caregivers you make sure that care includes yourself too. If you end up as one of the 50%, you won’t be there for your loved one; therefore defeating your original commitment to your loved one.
So always take some time to focus on you. That’s why at www.caregiverreleif.com you will find guided imagery CD’s, prayers, inspirational quotes and links to other sites that are humorous or relaxing. They’re all designed to help you – the caregiver. Most of all, for lasting results, we recommend guided imagery. But be sure to visit our other pages as well since you’ll find options for hands-on training and guidance in reliving your Alzheimer caregiver stress.