Did you know that learning stress management for caregivers of elderly with dementia can make a difference in the caregivers life and the person with dementia?
A study titled, The Cache County Dementia Progression Study, by researchers at Utah State University, in conjunction with John Hopkins, is the first published research to show that there is a correlation with aspects of the care environment and the rate of the progression of dementia.
This ground breaking information has profound impact on a devastating disease that affects million. It has been discovered that utilizing problem focused coping strategies tailored to the individual needs of the individual with dementia will actually slow the progression of the dementia. In a world where there is presently no cure for this disease, this is good news for the millions of family members dealing with the disorder.
So what is problem-focused coping? Problem focused coping approaches stress in practical ways. It is a strategy that looks at the cause of the problem or situation that is causing the stress. This approach can have an impact and directly reduce stress. The goal of problem-focused strategies is to remove or decrease the cause of the stress. It is a way to handle stress by taking the emotions out of the equation.
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Here are a few problem-focused strategies:
Taking control of the situation. This means that you may want to remove your family member from the source of the stress, or remove the source of the stress. As a caregiver, you would assess the situation; determine what is occurring in your environment at the present time that is upsetting your family member. It may be as simple as the TV is too loud, or the phone is ringing. It can be as difficult as your family member wanting to “go home”.
Collect information is becoming a detective and trying to understand what is occurring in the situation. This includes putting systems in place to avoid it in the future. Look at the situation. What occurred before the negative behavior occurred? What was the resulting negative behavior?
A common problem with many is “sundowning”. If you have a family member that is experiencing sundowning, what can you do to change the situation to decrease the negative behaviors that result?
With sundowning, keeping the house well lit is just one factor that you can control. Providing a quiet and peaceful environment, maybe even playing soft music can reduce stress during those evening hours. These are just a few things that you would implement to affect any challenging or negatives behaviors to decrease stress. Here is a sundowning checklist for you.
Explore the positive and negative options. Utilizing a problem- focused approach means identifying the short and long-term goals for your family member and creating a plan of care that implements those goals.
You may have a family member that wanders and you want to keep them at home as long as possible. You would like to avoid placement in a nursing home. As a caregiver, you want to maintain the safety of your family member. To approach this, you would do research on things you can implement to maintain the safety of your family member and develop approaches that would decrease the agitation and anxiety that occurs when you tell them (your family member) they cannot leave.
These approaches may include scheduling activities that may distract from trying to leave. There may come a time when the situation may become difficult for the family to handle and placement in a dementia unit may need to be considered. This may never occur, but it is an option that needs to be explored and discussed with other family members.
There are situations when problem focused strategies will work. There are times when a caregiver will be emotional and respond with that emotion.
Many family caregivers, face grieving the loss of their family member, on a daily basis. They look into the eyes of their family member and do not find the person that was once there. This causes sadness, frustration and anger. While it is difficult not to express these emotions as you are providing care, it is important that you find an outlet for sharing your feelings. The study found those family caregivers that sought outside help and continued to have social support while providing care, had success with utilizing problem focused coping strategies.
Realize and approach care giving as a job. It is a very hard job. A job comes with time off, breaks during the day, vacation days and holidays.
You have the right to time off and should utilize respite care. Asking other family members or utilizing community resources to take care of your family member to give you a break is necessary to help maintain your own health. Care giver stress not only kills, is promotes elder abuse. Research not concludes that a care giver can impact and even slow the progression of dementia with a positive approach to coping with stress. You now have a reason to take better care of yourself.