Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr.
President & CEO, Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
Being a loved one’s caregiver can be both enormously rewarding and very stressful.
Self-care is vital for caregivers. Stress doesn’t just affect mood—it can have long-term health impacts if you don’t take steps to manage it constructively.
Here are six steps that can help manage caregiver stress:
1. Be adaptable and positive
Your attitude influences stress levels for both you and the person you’re caring for. “Going with the flow,” rather than “fighting the current,” can help you stay relaxed, just as becoming aggravated or agitated can have the opposite effect. Focus on adjusting to the situation in a constructive way.
2. Deal with what you can control
Some things are out of your control. What is in your power to control is how you respond and react to these outside factors. Concentrating on finding solutions can help make the problem itself a little less stressful.
3. Set realistic goals and go slow
Everything cannot be resolved at once, nor does it need to be. Be realistic. Prioritize. Set practical goals, do your best to achieve them, and take things one day at a time.
4. Mind your health
Inadequate rest, poor diet, and lack of exercise can all exacerbate stress. As best you can, make it a priority to get sleep, eat right, drink plenty of water, and find ways to be active.
5. Clear and refresh your mind
Exercise, yoga, meditating, listening to music, or even taking a few deep breaths can all help relax the mind and reduce stress. Find something that works for you and do it regularly.
6. Share your feelings
Disconnecting from your support structure and staying bottled-up increases stress. Open up to a trusted loved one, friend, or professional. For those caring for a loved one with dementia, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has a Helpline open seven days a week staffed entirely by licensed social workers, as well as telephone-based support groups. Reach us at (866) 232-8484 or by web chat at www.alzfdn.org. Don’t be reluctant to talk about your stress, because doing so can actually help relieve it!