I've been interviewed a lot lately about my book, ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS. One of the frequent questions I'm asked is, "How does a caregiver de-stress, since caregiving is a 24/7 job that is often frustrating, thankless, and tiresome physically as well as emotionally?"
I respond that it's imperative a caregiver attend to his/her own well-being, in order to continue to provide for the loved one. That is often easier said than done in a crisis or long-term care situation.
One of the first suggestions I have is to find and use humor wherever possible. Laughter forms a great bond between people and is also a stress reliever.
In Sunday's Palm Beach Post, November 2, 2014, Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz reported that from 1995-2014, comedies at the box office brought in $38.6 billion - more than action, adventure, and horror movies. There's a scientific reason for this.
A University of Maryland study found that laughter helps your blood vessels relax, promoting healthy blood flow and good blood pressure.
Other studies indicate that laughter boosts levels of antibodies that help the body fight off upper-respiratory infections.
When you laugh, you lower cortisol and epinephrine levels that are "implicated" in weight gain, blood vessel damage, and depression. Certainly caregivers, as well as the elderly, must deal with depression on a regular basis.
Laughter also keeps glucose levels stable. Post-meal blood sugar spikes will be slower and lower. In other words, laugh while you're eating, if possible.
For those of you who appreciate "senior" humor, I urge you to watch stand-up comedian Fritz Coleman in a 15-minute YouTube routine at the Conference on Aging, Pasadena, California. I guarantee you'll feel relaxed afterward!
Other suggestions I have for maintaining health and sanity while caregiving are:
- Do something therapeutic for yourself as often as possible (walk, work out, read,
paint, write, play music, knit, garden, cook, or immerse yourself in a project at
whatever interests you to relieve stress)
- Ask for help!!! And don't be afraid to delegate. Support systems to tap into might
include friends, family members, church members. Of course, there are also
professional services available, such as pastors, counselors, and healthcare
The website www.aarp.org has lots of specific advice for caregivers.
- Make great memories with a loved one. Offer your hand, your heart, your time,
even if it's just to talk. The time spent together, even if brief, will remind you later
why that person was important to you.
- Eat at least one balanced meal every day and keep a supply of healthy snacks
(such as nuts, granola bars, yogurt, fruit). Poor nutrition will wear you down.
- Get enough sleep. If you are unable to sleep, ask your physician for a mild
or become a fan of Sleepytime or chamomile teas and yoga.
- Keep your social life alive and try not to take your "significant other" for granted.
Interact with friends as often as possible. It's restorative and you'll need support.
"significant other" how much you appreciate his/her involvement and ask for