Caregiver Stress: Managing Your Time, Well-being and Mental Health Around the Holidays

The population of the United States is growing older. Demographic studies over the past few decades confirm it. By the year 2040, just two decades from now, the number of Americans age 65 and older is expected to reach 80 million, and makeup about 20% of the population.

Even though Americans generally live longer than previous generations and many enjoy an active lifestyle well into their retirement years, adults 85 and older frequently experience some decline in both physical and mental abilities and are apt to require help with basic personal care. That group is expected to nearly quadruple over the next 20 years.

As the number of elder citizens increases, so too does the number of caregivers who regularly offer assistance to aging parents, relatives and close friends. The Mayo Clinic affirms that about one in three adults can be classified as an “informal caregiver,” offering some sort of basic assistance to another adult, whether it’s a spouse or partner, another relative, a disabled adult child or a neighbor or close friend. These caregivers typically give willingly of their time, energy and attention, as well as their resources, to assist those they love, and they sometimes don’t even self-identify with the role of caregiver.

Recognizing the Stressors of Caregiving

Holding any sort of responsibility for the health and well-being of another individual can take a toll on the person who assumes the role of caregiver. It can be difficult even during the best of times. Stress and anxiety build as caregivers attempt to balance the demands of personal life and employment against the obligation to care for another person. Accompanying mental and physical stress is common, often characterized by exhaustion, frustration or anger. Holiday seasons can become increasingly difficult for a dedicated caregiver, and women suffer from caregiver burnout to a greater degree than men.

Recognizing the signs of caregiver burnout is the first step toward making things better. If, as a dedicated caregiver, you find yourself experiencing feelings of sadness as the holidays approach, or if you feel overwhelmed by your daily routine, notice a change in your sleep patterns, experience unexplained weight gain or loss, or suffer from frequent headaches, you may be neglecting your own well-being. If you have lost interest in activities you once enjoyed or are sometimes irritated by small issues that others don’t even recognize, it’s important to step back and reassess your own health needs.

Remember, you cannot help another person if you’re not your own best self. Caregiver fatigue is real. There are ways to mitigate its effects, but you must first acknowledge that it’s a problem.

Strategies to Alleviate Caregiver Stress

While most caregivers focus on the needs of another person, you don’t want to become someone who needs to be cared for because you have neglected your own health. The detrimental effects of being a caregiver can become serious.

Unrelieved stress often leads to depression, according to medical professionals, and even the most efficient and resilient people sometimes require a helping hand to get through tough times. The first step is often simply accepting the fact that it’s okay to ask for and accept help.

Make a list of things others can do to help. Say yes when a friend, neighbor or another family member offers, and be prepared to request something specific, whether it’s running an errand, cooking a meal, visiting with the person you’re caring for or walking your dog.

Sometimes just a cup of tea and a friendly visit can work wonders for your psyche, so make it a point to connect with friends and other family members whenever possible. Also, don’t isolate yourself from groups and activities that have given purpose and meaning to your life in the past.

Give Yourself a Break

Consider periodic respite care so that you can maintain some sense of normalcy and life balance. Home care and temporary nursing agencies offer a full range of services and are good resources if you need a scheduled companion or in-home healthcare from a trained professional. In addition, check on available senior programs in your community. Crafts programs, neighborhood concerts and book reviews, lunch groups at local senior centers and special holiday programs are all available.

This year, of course, those activities may have been curtailed due to COVID-19 restrictions, but you could plan an excursion to see holiday decorations or meet others for a socially distanced holiday picnic at a local park. The key is creativity.

Break the stress that can routinely affect anyone. Particularly during the holiday season, it’s vital to allow yourself an occasional break from your caregiving duties. Do something you love. Go for a long walk, get a massage or a pedicure, listen to your favorite music as you relax and unwind after a busy day, join a friend for a cup of tea and a chat.

And don’t feel guilty about the need for such pleasures.

Investigate Local Resources

Caregivers invariably feel an emotional need to provide the best possible support for aging relatives. Sometimes, however, that does not mean keeping them at home with you. We understand it may be difficult to make such a decision, but full-time care in a warm and welcoming assisted living and memory care community may be the best of all possible choices, for you and your loved one.

If you’d like to discuss options for transitioning to such professional care for your loved one, why not contact The Cabana at Jensen Dunes in Jensen Beach, Florida? Our programs are designed to offer a healthy and health-giving lifestyle to residents and their families. We cater to the physical, social, emotional and mobility needs of all our residents, and we offer lasting peace of mind to families who wish only the best for those they love dearly and care about deeply.

As a responsible caregiver, what more could you hope for?

 Welcoming Senior Living in Jensen Beach

At The Cabana at Jensen Dunes, we offer a wide range of senior living options to support each individual’s needs. This includes assisted living for adults that need help with activities of daily living, as well as memory care for those who need a structured and care-focused environment. To learn more about our community, download our free brochure or contact us with any questions.