Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Alliance of Caregivers reported that 40 percent of family caregivers experience high levels of physical and mental stress.
It also reported that 16 percent of the surveyed family caregivers managed their stress and kept it in check. What is their recipe for keeping their stress at bay?
The answer focuses on four common sense ingredients: learning to ask for help, seeking balance between work and caregiving responsibilities, setting limits, and working at relieving stress. You simply can’t do it all when it comes to caregiving. You have to be willing to ask for help.
Whether that takes the shape of formal or informal assistance, you need to create a list of needed tasks and match them with your pool of potential helpers. Additionally, in the coming post-Covid-19 pandemic period, you will have to ensure that everyone helping you are aware of and follows all of the necessary CDC prescribed precautions to keep things safe and sound at home.
AARP as well as professional geriatric care managers and social service workers can locate caregiver services and long term care options. When it comes to informal help; family, friends and neighbors are usually the first to be enlisted.
To kick things off, consider calling a family/friends meeting in person, by phone, or on various free video platforms such as Zoom. Prior to the meeting be sure to decide what kind of care is needed and who would be the best person to research or provide it. While it’s helpful to have one person assume primary responsibility, everyone in the family should be asked to handle specific tasks. Most importantly, match people’s tasks to their abilities and limitations and set a specific time for reassessment and possible reassignment.
If you are one of the 40 to 70 percent of caregivers who suffer from significant symptoms of depression, don’t ignore it. Seek out emotional support from a spouse, a friend, a support group, or even a therapist.
Almost half of all family caregivers work a full or part time job. Juggling between the demands of caregiving and the rigors of a job can be overwhelming. Here are some suggestions on how to balance things.
The Family and Medical Leave act requires that all public agencies and companies with more than 50 employees must annually offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave for parent or spousal care. Flextime, shift changes, or telecommuting are also possibilities, as is reducing work hours to part time or job sharing if the resultant reduction in pay is feasible.
When you are at work and your break or lunch time rolls around, don’t go into overdrive and start rushing around trying to complete all of your caregiving phone calls or errands. Make time for yourself to decompress. It’s critical for your psychological well-being that you take time out to smell the roses.
If the person you are caring for lives with you, then the demands placed upon you almost never cease. Driving around doing errands, spending time on the phone, setting up and attending medical appointments, cooking and cleaning can make you feel like you are drowning.
To make matters even worse, you probably have absolutely no time at all for your use, children, friends, and most importantly, yourself. It might seem like an impossible dream to be able to manage all the things that are tugging at you from all directions, but here are some tips that might make that dream come true.
Bundle weekly errands and do as much as you can in one trip.
Set aside a small amount of time each week to connect with your friends, spouse or kids for an evening out, a meal, or a hike.
Focus on household priorities and only do the top three. If cleaning the house is important to you or if you prefer homemade food to frozen or take out that’s fine. Just realize you can’t do it all so you’re going to need to let some housekeeping chores slide or hire someone to take up the slack.
In our next editions of FULL SPEED AHEAD we’ll look at the other two key ingredients that can make your caregiving experience a happy, healthy one — setting limits and working at relieving stress.
Allan Goldstein is a retirement counselor in Long Beach.