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Special Edition--Thats How I See It!

Special Edition dealing with taking care of the caregiver.

I am green with envy Dan, when I hear about all your trips to the Cayman Islands. I can just imagine being hit with the hot air that you described when getting off the plane.
I am still caring for two elderly parents, who are in their late 90s and are in two separate homes. They are independent, but they are so stubborn and anxious, they don't let me get too far from them.
In one way, it is a privilege to still have parents around, and in another way it is a burden. Likely many of your readers are passed this caregiving stage, but if not, it would make a good topic to address in your newsletter.
Enjoy the sun, you lucky ducky!                      

As a result of this suggestion I put together this Special Edition for Caregivers.

Caregiver stress: Tips for taking care of yourself

Caring for a loved one strains even the most resilient people. If you're a caregiver, take steps to preserve your own health and well-being.
By Mayo Clinic Staff

As the population ages, more caregiving is being provided by people who aren't health care professionals. These informal caregivers provide 80 percent of long-term care for their loved ones.

A caregiver is anyone who provides help to another person in need, such as an ill spouse or partner, a disabled child, or an aging relative. However, family members who are actively caring for an older adult often don't self-identify as a "caregiver." Recognizing this role can help caregivers receive the support they need.

Caregiving is rewarding but stressful

Caregiving can have many rewards. For most caregivers, being there when a loved one needs you is a core value and something you wish to provide.
But a shift in roles and emotions is almost certain. It is natural to feel angry, frustrated, exhausted, alone or sad. Caregiver stress - the emotional and physical stress of caregiving - is common.

Signs of caregiver stress

As a caregiver, you may be so focused on your loved one that you don't realize that your own health and well-being are suffering. Watch for these signs of caregiver stress:
-Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried.
-Feeling tired most of the time.
-Sleeping too much or too little.
-Gaining or losing a lot of weight.
-Becoming easily irritated or angry.
-Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy.
-Feeling sad.
-Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems.
-Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications.
Too much stress, especially over a long time, can harm your health. As a caregiver, you're more likely to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety. In addition, you may not get enough sleep or physical activity, or eat a balanced diet - which increases your risk of medical problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Strategies for dealing with caregiver stress

The emotional and physical demands involved with caregiving can strain even the most resilient person. That's why it's so important to take advantage of the many resources and tools available to help you provide care for your loved one. Remember, if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to care for anyone else.

To help manage caregiver stress:
Accept help
Be prepared with a list of ways that others can help you, and let the helper choose what he or she would like to do. For instance, one person might be willing to take the person you care for on a walk a couple of times a week. Someone else might offer to pick up groceries or cook for you.

Focus on what you are able to provide
It's normal to feel guilty sometimes, but understand that no one is a "perfect" caregiver. Believe that you are doing the best you can and making the best decisions you can at any given time.

Set realistic goals
Break large tasks into smaller steps that you can do one at a time. Prioritize, make lists and establish a daily routine. Begin to say no to requests that are draining, such as hosting holiday meals.

Get connected
Find out about caregiving resources in your community. Many communities have classes specifically about the disease your loved one is facing. Caregiving services such as transportation and meal delivery may be available.

Join a support group
A support group can provide validation and encouragement, as well as problem-solving strategies for difficult situations. People in support groups understand what you may be going through. A support group can also be a good place to create meaningful friendships.

Seek social support
Make an effort to stay well-connected with family and friends who can offer nonjudgmental emotional support. Set aside time each week for connecting, even if it's just a walk with a friend.

Set personal health goals
For example, set a goal to establish a good sleep routine or to find time to be physically active on most days of the week. It's also crucial to fuel your body with healthy foods and plenty of water.

See your doctor
Get recommended immunizations and screenings. Make sure to tell your doctor that you're a caregiver. Don't hesitate to mention any concerns or symptoms you have.

Below--a somewhat similar article but a few additional suggestions.
Caregiver Stress and Burnout
Tips for Regaining Your Energy, Optimism, and Hope

The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming, especially if you feel you have little control over the situation or you're in over your head. If the stress of caregiving is left unchecked, it can take a toll on your health, relationships, and state of mind-eventually leading to burnout.
When you're burned out, it's tough to do anything, let alone look after someone else. That's why taking care of yourself isn't a luxury-it's a necessity. Read on for tips on how to rein in the stress in your life and regain balance, joy, and hope.

What you can do

-Connect face to face with the person you are caring for.
-Get out of the house and walk in the sunlight.
-Reach out and stay connected to people who support you.
-Learn about the mood-boosting benefits of omega-3 fats.
-Join a caregiver support group to share your experiences.
-Get the amount of restful sleep that you need to feel your best.

What do you need to know?

Caring for a loved one can be very rewarding, but it also involves many stressors. Caregiver stress can be particularly damaging, since it is typically a chronic, long-term challenge. You may face years or even decades of caregiving responsibilities. It can be particularly disheartening when there's no hope that your family member will get better.
If you don't get the physical and emotional support your need, the stress of caregiving leaves you vulnerable to a wide range of problems, including depression, anxiety, and burnout. And when you get to that point, both you and the person you're caring for suffer. That's why managing the stress levels in your life is just as important as making sure your family member gets to his doctor's appointment or takes her medication on time.

Signs and symptoms of caregiver stress and burnout-
Learning to recognize the signs of caregiver stress and burnout is the first step to dealing with the problem.

Common signs and symptoms of caregiver stress
Anxiety, depression, irritability
Feeling tired and run down
Difficulty sleeping
Overreacting to minor nuisances
New or worsening health problems
Trouble concentrating
Feeling increasingly resentful
Drinking, smoking, or eating more
Neglecting responsibilities
Cutting back on leisure activities

Common signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout
You have much less energy than you once had.
It seems like you catch every cold or flu that's going around.
You're constantly exhausted, even after sleeping or taking a break.
You neglect your own needs, either because you're too busy or you don't care anymore.
Your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction.
You have trouble relaxing, even when help is available.
You're increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you're caring for.
You feel helpless and hopeless.

Once you burn out, caregiving is no longer a healthy option for either you or the person you're caring for. So it's important to watch for the warning signs of caregiver burnout and take action right away when you recognize the problem.
Don't let caregiving take over your whole life. It's easier to accept a difficult situation when there are other areas of your life that are rewarding. Invest in things that give you meaning and purpose-whether it's your family, church, a favourite hobby, or your career. Read on for some additional tips to lighten the load.

Find ways to feel empowered
Feeling powerless is the number one contributor to burnout and depression. And it's an easy trap to fall into as a caregiver, especially if you feel stuck in a role you didn't expect or helpless to change things for the better. But no matter the situation, you aren't powerless. This is especially true when it comes to your state of mind. You can't always get the extra time, money, or physical assistance you'd like, but you can always get more happiness and hope.
Embrace your caregiving choice
Acknowledge that, despite any resentments or burdens you feel, you have made a conscious choice to provide care. Focus on the positive reasons behind that choice. Perhaps you provide care to repay your parent for the care they gave you growing up. Or maybe it's because of your values or the example you want to set for your children. These deep, meaningful motivations can help sustain you through difficult times.

Focus on the things you can control
You can't wish your mother's cancer away or force your brother to help out more. Rather than stressing out over things you can't control, focus on the way you choose to react to problems.

Celebrate the small victories
If you start to feel discouraged, remind yourself that all your efforts matter. You don't have to cure your loved one's illness to make a difference. Don't underestimate the importance of making your loved one feel more safe, comfortable, and loved!

Get the appreciation you need
Feeling appreciated can go a long way toward not only accepting a stressful situation, but enjoying life more. Studies show that caregivers who feel appreciated experience greater physical and emotional health. Caregiving actually makes them happier and healthier, despite its demands. But what can you do if the person you're caring for is no longer able to feel or show their appreciation for your time and efforts?
Imagine how your loved one would respond if he or she was healthy
If he or she wasn't preoccupied with illness or pain (or disabled by dementia), how would your loved one feel about the love and care you're giving? Remind yourself that the person would express gratitude if he or she was able.

Applaud your own efforts
If you're not getting external validation, find ways to acknowledge and reward yourself. Remind yourself of the good you're doing. If you need something more concrete, try making a list of all the ways your caregiving is making a positive difference. Refer back to it when you start to feel low.

Talk to a supportive family member or friend
Positive reinforcement doesn't have to come from the person you're caring for. When you're feeling unappreciated, turn to friends and family who will listen to you and acknowledge your efforts.

Ask for help
Taking on all of the responsibilities of caregiving without regular breaks or assistance is a surefire recipe for burnout. Don't try to do it all alone. Look into respite care. Or enlist friends and family who live near you to run errands, bring a hot meal, or "baby-sit" the care receiver so you can take a well-deserved break.

Tips for getting the caregiving help you need:

Speak up
Don't expect friends and family members to automatically know what you need or how you're feeling. Be up front about what's going on with you and the person you're caring for. If you have concerns or thoughts about how to improve the situation, express them-even if you're unsure how they'll be received. Get a dialogue going.

Spread the responsibility
Try to get as many family members involved as possible. Even someone who lives far away can help. You may also want to divide up caregiving tasks. One person can take care of medical responsibilities, another with finances and bills, and another with groceries and errands, for example.
Set up a regular check-in
Ask a family member, friend, or volunteer from your church or senior center to call you on a set basis (every day, weekly, or how ever often you think you need it). This person can help you spread status updates and coordinate with other family members.

Say "yes" when someone offers assistance
Don't be shy about accepting help. Let them feel good about supporting you. It's smart to have a list ready of small tasks that others could easily take care of, such as picking up groceries or driving your loved one to an appointment.

Be willing to relinquish some control
Delegating is one thing. Trying to control every aspect of care is another. People will be less likely to help if you micromanage, give orders, or insist on doing things your way.

Give yourself a break
As a busy caregiver, leisure time may seem like an impossible luxury. But you owe it to yourself-as well as to the person you're caring for-to carve it into your schedule. Give yourself permission to rest and to do things that you enjoy on a daily basis. You will be a better caregiver for it.
There's a difference between being busy and being productive. If you're not regularly taking time-off to de-stress and recharge your batteries, you'll end up getting less done in the long run. After a break, you should feel more energetic and focused, so you'll quickly make up for your relaxation time.

Maintain your personal relationships
Don't let your friendships get lost in the shuffle of caregiving. These relationships will help sustain you and keep you positive. If it's difficult to leave the house, invite friends over to visit with you over coffee, tea, or dinner.

Prioritize activities that bring you enjoyment
Make regular time for things that bring you happiness, whether it's reading, working in the garden, tinkering in your workshop, knitting, playing with the dogs, or watching the game.
Find ways to pamper yourself
Small luxuries can go a long way in relieving stress and boosting your spirits. Light candles and take a long bath. Ask your hubby for a back rub. Get a manicure. Buy fresh flowers for the house. Or whatever makes you feel special.

Make yourself laugh
Laughter is an excellent antidote to stress-and a little goes a long way. Read a funny book, watch a comedy, or call a friend who makes you laugh. And whenever you can, try to find the humour in everyday situations.

Get out of the house
Seek out friends, family, and respite care providers to step in with caregiving so you can have some time away from the home.

Take care of your health
Think of your body like a car. With the right fuel and proper maintenance, it will run reliably and well. Neglect its upkeep and it will start to give you trouble. Don't add to the stress of your caregiving situation with avoidable health woes.

Keep on top of your doctor visits
It's easy to forget about your own health when you're busy with a loved one's care. Don't skip check-ups or medical appointments. You need to be healthy in order to take good care of your family member.

When you're stressed and tired, the last thing you feel like doing is exercising. But you'll feel better afterwards. Exercise is a powerful stress reliever and mood enhancer. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes on most days. When you exercise regularly, you'll also find it boosts your energy level and helps you fight fatigue.

A daily relaxation or meditation practice can help you relieve stress and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation. Even a few minutes in the middle of an overwhelming day can help you feel more centered.

Eat well
Nourish your body with fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean protein, and healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil. Unlike sugar and caffeine-which provide a quick pick-me-up and an even quicker crash-these foods will fuel you with steady energy.

Don't skimp on sleep
Cutting back on time in bed is counterproductive-at least if your goal is to get more done. Most people need more sleep than they think they do (8 hours is the norm). When you get less, your mood, energy, productivity, and ability to handle stress will suffer.

Join a support group.

Caregiver Self-Assessment Questionnaire
Construct: Caregiver stress and depression

This 18-item, caregiver self-report measure was devised by the American Medical Association as a means of helping physicians assess the stress-levels of family caregivers accompanying chronically ill older adult patients to their medical visits. Caregivers are asked to respond either "Yes" or "No" to a series of statements, such as "During the past week or so, I have felt completely overwhelmed" and "During the past week or so, I have felt strained between work and family responsibilities."
For item #17, family caregivers are asked to rate their level of stress on a 1-10 basis. For item #18, they are asked to rate their perception of their current health in comparison to their health 1 year ago. A simple scoring system allows family caregivers themselves to score their results and to determine whether or not they are highly stressed. The accompanying scoring sheet suggests that, if they are highly stressed, they consider seeing a doctor for a check-up for themselves and reaching out for caregiver support services. The phone numbers and websites for several caregiver resources, including the Eldercare Locator, are listed.
The questionnaire and scoring forms, available in English and Spanish versions, are downloadable for free from the American Medical Association website.

Thanks for being out there and I hope you will share the newsletter with people you think will get something out of it.