“Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear" was a message that became widely recognized after an iconic scene in the movie Jurassic Park. When the passengers in a high-flying jeep were trying to make their escape from the T-Rex chasing them, these words took on a different meaning and the need for a more dramatic and immediate response.
As caregivers of older adults, you may not have a giant dinosaur chasing you, although it may sometimes feel that way. What you may have is that heavy burden of responsibility that seems to get heavier day by day without you realizing it until the weight is unbearable and then YOU may be the one requiring a caregiver.
We all know that stress can negatively impact your physical health, but as a caregiver especially if you are caring for someone with any form of dementia or other debilitating disease, stress coupled with frustration may even cause you to be physically or verbally aggressive towards the person for whom you provide care.
The following are some great tips to keep in mind from the Family Caregiver Alliance:
When you are frustrated, it is important to distinguish between what is and what is not within your power to change. Frustration often arises out of trying to change an uncontrollable circumstance. As a caregiver of someone with dementia, you face many uncontrollable situations. Normal daily activities—dressing, bathing and eating—may become sources of deep frustration for you. Behaviors often associated with dementia, like wandering or asking questions repeatedly, can be frustrating for caregivers but are uncontrollable behaviors for people with dementia. Unfortunately, you cannot simply change the behavior of a person suffering from dementia.
When dealing with an uncontrollable circumstance, you do control one thing: how you respond to that circumstance.
In order to respond without extreme frustration, you will need to:
- learn to recognize the warnings signs of frustration;
- intervene to calm yourself down physically;
- modify your thoughts in a way that reduces your stress;
- learn to communicate assertively;
- learn to ask for help.
Learning new ways to cope with the responsibilities of caregiving may just be the best way to take care of you in order to continue providing the person that needs you with the best possible care. mmLearn.org provides over 200 FREE online videos to support caregivers of older adults including three different presentations on stress. Caregiver Stress: Identifying & Reducing Strain & Stress by Andrea Wirt, M.S.M., R.N., Geriatric Nurse Practitioner, Caregiver Stress Related to Dementia, by S. Lilian Oakes, M.D., CMD and Caregiver Stress by Dr. Thomas Weiss.
Remember the next time you look into that side view mirror, it may be caregiver stress that is closer than you think!