Caring for an elder can be stressful, trying, and time-intensive. Even strong-willed, confident, and optimistic individuals may find that elder care wears on them over time. It’s important to understand that these feelings are natural and can be overcome. You may feel overwhelmed at times, but know that help is available. If you are tasked with caring for a loved one, perhaps a parent or grandparent, these tips and techniques can help relieve any stress or anxiety you may be feeling.
1. Get organized
One way to relieve stress and anxiety is through organization. By organizing your responsibilities into manageable to-do lists, and decluttering your living environment, you can save time and energy, focus on other matters, and have a better sense of your daily tasks, among other things. To help organize your responsibilities, consider an organization app for your smartphone or tablet. Popular options include Asana and Todoist.
2. Join support groups
Major medical organizations (like MayoClinic) agree: Support groups can help people cope with stress, overcome anxiety, and deal with major life changes. If you find that caring for an elder is causing you or your family a great deal of stress, consider joining a support group of individuals going through the same experience. You may find such a group at your local hospital, a YMCA in your hometown, or through a psychiatric practice. You may also find online forums, such as AgingCare.com, to be helpful.
3. Enlist available help
Don’t be ashamed to enlist help if you are tasked with caring for a loved one. Elder care is a tremendous responsibility that can challenge even the strong-willed among us; enlisting help will not only be beneficial for your well-being but for the person you’re caring for as well. After all, if you’re feeling depressed, anxious, stressed, or fatigued, you can’t provide the best care possible. If you have family that is willing or able to help, ask them for help. If not, consider using the government’s elder care and respite services.
4. Put technology to use
Monitoring an elder at all times can be difficult, if not impossible. So how can you be sure that your loved one is safe while you’re away? What if he or she were to fall down, or suffer some other type of accident, while you’re out of the house? For just such eventualities, you should consider a medical alert system, like the Lively Mobile by GreatCall. This device, easily worn on clothing for convenience, offers fall protection and emergency response services, in addition to GPS tracking. Should your loved one need assistance while you’re away, they can get it—without having to rely on a telephone being nearby.
5. Maintain a healthy routine
If you don’t care for yourself, how can you be expected to care for someone else? Make no mistake, elder care can be a tiring, even exhausting, especially for long periods of time. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine is incredibly important for caregivers, as it will provide you with the energy and stamina needed to care for your loved one. With a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat meats, you can give your body the fuel it needs to work at peak efficiency. And with exercise, you can build muscle and develop cardiovascular strength for all-day stamina.
6. Set aside time for you
Just as it’s important to eat healthily and exercise, it is also important to set aside time for yourself. As mentioned above, respite is a key component of elder care. After all, if you don’t receive breaks occasionally, how can you be expected to provide the best care possible? You have a life of your own, with its own responsibilities, and it’s important that you take time to tend to it. There are practical concerns that demand your attention, as well as emotional ones. Though you may feel an obligation to the loved one in your life, don’t forget that you are important, too.
7. Consider elder programs
Do a bit of research to see what elder programs are available in your area. There may be a social club for seniors, or a swim class (with assistants who can help). Or perhaps there’s a chess club or lawn bowling league that you can join. Even if your loved one is unable to participate, due to mobility concerns or other issues, he or she may still enjoy the camaraderie and social aspects. Joining an elder program can help relieve some of your responsibilities while improving your loved one’s morale and spirits at the same time.
8. Seek counsel if necessary
Finally, if you are feeling stressed out, anxious, overwhelmed, or depressed, don’t be afraid to seek counsel from a doctor, psychiatrist, life coach, or friend. Having someone to talk to can help you deal with your stress and blow off some steam. It allows you to air your concerns and troubles, rather than keep them to yourself. And there are practical benefits to counseling as well. A counselor may help you solve a problem, propose a solution for a specific concern, hold you to task, or simply provide encouragement. Don’t be too proud to seek out a therapist if you feel it may provide some benefit.
The bottom line
Caring for an elder can be hard work and stressful, but human and digital help are available to help out. You don’t have to go through it alone.
Samantha Rivers is a freelance writer who lives in Chicago (Go Cubs!) and loves writing anything in the lifestyle, tech, travel, and career realm both online and print. When she's not running the Upward Onward blog, she enjoys reading, finding new restaurants, being active outside, and indulging in a glass of wine or two.