Rita Hodges

Extension service

• Last of three-part series

Caregivers invest so much time and effort into the lives of their care recipients that often they neglect themselves.

Feelings of guilt and a sense of helplessness may cause significant stress in the life of a caregiver, causing an inability to function properly. When caregiver burnout occurs, the caregiver is not the only person who suffers – the care recipient may also be affected. There are some strategies to help identify and manage stress in an effort to prevent caregiver burnout.

According to Dr. Andrew Crocker, Gerontology Health Specialist with Texas AgriLife Extension Service, you cannot begin to resolve the stress in your life until you realize that you are affected by it. The following questions can help identify some warning signs of stress.

• Do you feel lacking in energy?

• Do you feel increasingly isolated?

• Are you having increased health problems: high blood pressure or ulcers?

• Are you having trouble sleeping?

• Are you having trouble concentrating?

To address your stress and find a coping strategy, you must be able to identify its cause. What creates stress for you may not create stress for another person. There are some questions you can ask to help you identify the cause of your stress.

• Are there too many demands on your time, energy or money?

• Do you have difficulty meeting your care recipient’s needs?

• Do you feel trapped?

• Do you feel that other members of your care team/family are not doing their part?

• Are your expectations for caregiving unrealistic?

The coping strategy you choose may depend on what type of stress that is affecting your life. You may be able to find one coping strategy to manage your stress, but more than likely it will take a combination of several ideas to help you. Whatever you do, do not get to the end of your rope. You owe it to yourself and to your care recipient to make an effort to provide the best care you can.

• Share concerns. Within reason, involve your care recipient in making decisions that affect him or her.

• Rest. Lack of rest can lead to decreased patience and tolerance. It negatively impacts your health.

• Solve problems. Some needs simply cannot be addressed. Change the things that you are able to change and try not to worry about the rest.

• Use common sense. Be flexible and adapt to different situations, in the end, you know what is best for you.

• Ask for help. Do not assume you have to do this alone. Rely on your care network to help you.

This list of coping strategies is certainly not exhaustive. Always remember that there are alternative solutions – they just have to be found. Sadly, caregiver burnout leads to many alternative housing placements, sometimes prematurely, simply because there are no other alternatives.

Caregivers have an awesome responsibility to another person. Remember to keep realistic expectations about your abilities and about the condition of your care recipient. This will make large strides in helping you to cope with the stress that caregiving may bring.

Additional resources for caregiving may be found on the web, in print or in person:

• Area Agency on Aging, 800-252-9240 (in Texas)

 http://www.tdoa.state.tx.us/Services/AAALocatorMap.htm

• American Association of Retired Persons

 http://www.aarp.org/life/caregiving

For more information, contact Rita M. Hodges, county extension agent for family and consumer sciences, 701 S. Interstate 35E, Suite 3, Waxahachie; call 972-825-5175; or email rmhodges@ag.tamu.edu.