Olivia’s mother lives down the street and has relied on her for help since her father died three years ago. Olivia is a single mom with three school age children who also rely on her to keep their household running smoothly. Lately, she finds it difficult to remain upbeat, finds little energy for going out with friends or enjoying her favorite hobbies. This lifestyle has placed a strain on her home life as well as her job. Olivia keeps asking how she can continue on this path, what she can do to cope with all the pressures of caring for her mother, her children and herself. When challenges and demands are too great, they drain our physical energy, time, health and money.
Sound familiar? If you’re a caregiver, this scenario is probably one that you can readily identify with along with approximately 66 million other cargivers in the United States. So how can you keep your sanity intact while caring for a family member or other loved one? Becoming aware of how stress takes hold is the first step toward coping with it. Finding ways to cope with your particular caregiving situation may take some work, but patience and a healthy dose of self-care, will certainly be helpful.
The well-known quote by Reinhold Niebuhr, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” is a perfect way to approach caregiving. There are many things as a caregiver that you will not be able to change and determining which ones you can do something about and which ones are beyond your control will make a tremendous difference in your level of stress.
Along with accepting what you can and cannot change, which leads to successful coping, there is also the importance of establishing limits. As difficult as it may be, it’s okay to say “no” when you have reached your capacity. This would be a time for calling in some help. Resistance to accepting help is a common cause of stress and depression among caregivers.
Learning how to cope with the stresses of caregiving is an on-going journey and one that may continue for many years so work at mastering stress for your own benefit and that of the person for whom you are providing care.
mmLearn.org provides over 200 free online videos for caregivers of older adults. Edward P. Shafranske, Ph.D, Professor of Psychology provides a series on The Nature of Coping provided especially to assist you in your role as caregiver.
To learn more on coping with caregiving stress - watch all or part of this three part series by Dr. Edward P. Shafranske: