*Republished with author’s permission: By Teresa Maron
Feeling Stress Free – A Caregiver Blog Series. Part One: Care for Yourself
Care for Yourself
Feeling Stress Free is a stress management blog series for Alzheimer’s caregivers. In this 12-part series we will begin to learn and explore holistic techniques and seek practical solutions to add stress management to your daily routine. I will share stories of caregivers, and their personal tips as well as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia resources. Our first tip is to Care for Yourself.
Alzheimer’s caregivers are always under stress. They are the biggest new demographic. We are living longer and overall are much healthier, but 70% of us will need long term care at some time in our life. And caregiving takes a toll. Caregivers have a 63% higher rate of death than people their age who are not caregivers. Could a daily stress management program make a difference?
Of course, stress is not going to disappear. You will never be able to remove all the stress from your life. But you can change how you respond to it. Practical tools, support and resources is what stress management is all about.
Learning basic holistic stress relief techniques is highly effective, and you can do it anywhere.
Think of beautiful guided imagery, sweet smelling herbs and essential oils, restful breathing and soothing words of affirmation.
In just minutes a day you can achieve a high level of relaxation. With daily practice, this becomes more and more your reality, harder to shake, and easier to step into. It becomes the new you.
The goal of this series is to create a healthier, happier you with solutions for a stronger approach to feeling free of stress.
Compelling Reasons to add Stress Management to Your Daily Routine
- Stress accelerates aging, memory loss, and suppresses happiness and ability to focus.
- Stress affects the stomach, muscles and lungs and can make conditions such as arthritis, high blood pressure or asthma worsen.
- Stress causes higher levels of the hormone cortisol, and that will increase fat deposited on the abdomen.
- Stress upsets digestion, metabolism and hydration.
- Stress management techniques have been shown in multiple studies to reverse these symptoms. In fact the list of health benefits to a daily stress management routine are undeniable.
- One study of heart attack survivors found that taking a stress management class slashed their risks of a second cardiac event by 74%.
- What if these people had started stress management before the first heart attack?
Meet Barbara, a Caregiver’s Story
I met Barbara when she joined a Stress Management group that I hold monthly at an assisted living community here in Houston, TX. She was interested in meditation and visualization techniques and shared this one with the group.
“I picture a waterfall just running over me gently. I breathe deeply and in just a few minutes I start to relax and feel calm. I have a recording of running water that I play and it really helps.”
I asked her what got her interested in meditation and she shared her story of caregiving with me. She said that this visualization had helped get her through the very rough time right before her husband went from being cared for by her at home and into a facility. She was torn about whether she could handle the full time needs herself.
With her blessing I share her story with you.
Barbara was a Texas beauty and she met her future husband on the first day of college, at Sam Houston State. She never looked for or dated another. They fell in love and had a wonderful life. He was a legal professional with a high profile exciting job, and she became successful at real estate. They had 2 children and 3 grandchildren and were the kind of couple who planned ahead.
Barbara says, “Men have a different attitude towards caregiving. I knew I would have to take the lead and make sure we had sufficient coverage financially in case one of us needed long term care.”
When the diagnosis came that her husband was no longer able to drive, Barbara knew she would have to reorganize her life. Her first step was to remodel the bathroom at home, adding safety bars and repurposing the space for his needs. Barbara managed as a full time caregiver at home for five years with the help of respite care and a professional service to come into the home several times a week.
Barbara celebrated this time, as a labor of love, and did very well with the tips she shares below. But when the doctor told her she could no longer handle it alone she knew he was right. She was ready to move him, and even though it was hard she knew it was for the best. He remained in a wonderful facility for 3 years.
Barbara’ biggest surprise when she got him settled into his new home was one very special nurse named Pat. She developed a special bond with her husband.
Barbara shared, “Pat could always calm him and get him in a good mood. She was one of the unexpected angels that made my daily visits so rewarding.”
Barbara listened to others in her support group and also came up with some stress reducing tips of her own. Here are her Top 10.
Barbara’s Top 10 Tips
- When planning an outing pack a bag with magazines, snacks and hygiene items to carry along.
- Take advantage of respite care, adult day care and in-home services, and use them frequently.
- Find a professional to help you plan your insurance and funding choices and be pro-active. Check in regularly for updates, additions and changes to policies that can help you and your family.
- If you are visiting a loved one in a facility, go 20 minutes before lunch and leave right after dessert. It is a favorite time of day, they are usually not as tired. This will add happy memories and laughter to the day.
- Take advantage of counseling services provided through your health care network, church and community. It saves your friendships for pleasure by giving you an outlet to release your frustrations.
- Add a meditation, breathing and visualization audio or video to your routine every day.
- Join a support group that you can laugh, cry, share and find comfort in. (Support groups are offered for free through the Alzheimer’s Association. Find one near you by clicking “Programs and Events” here >>)
- Take a Vitamin B stress complex supplement. It really works.
- Take a full day and night off as much as you can and enjoy it. No Guilt!
- If a doctor says that it’s time and you need to move a loved one into a full care facility, do it.
Next time, we will discuss the patterns and habits that add stress to our lives and some of the misconceptions that keep us from breaking free. In the meantime, don’t forget to Care For Yourself.
About the Author
Teresa Maron writes for the AlzTex Blog on the topics of health, happiness and living stress free.
She believes the very best quality of life insurance is the kind that makes every day you live more secure, more risk free and more peaceful. Now more than ever, there are new choices available. Teresa is a licensed insurance agent with Bankers Life and you can contact her today.