Jump to:Page Content
Join the conversation with other caregivers and get information from our home health care experts.
It’s no secret that caregiving is stressful, and according to a 2011 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, “caregivers manage stress in less healthy ways than the general population.” In fact, not only are caregivers “more likely to report watching TV or movies for more than two hours a day (43 percent versus 33 percent in the general population),” they’re also more likely to report smoking (20 percent versus 10 percent in the general population) as a way of coping with the overwhelming pressure of caring for a loved one.
Often, temporary solutions to stress can add more worry. If you hit the mall to unwind, you may find yourself dreading the day your credit-card statements come in the mail. Deciding to finish the bottle of wine you’d opened for “just one” glass with dinner can become an all-too-frequent evening ritual and can increase difficulties and stresses the next day.
So, how can busy caregivers relieve stress in the short run without causing themselves more harm in the long run? There’s an evolving field in psychology called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a focused form of therapy that typically spans an average of eight to sixteen sessions depending upon the severity of the problem. Among the various approaches to CBT is one in which a therapist teaches relaxation techniques to deal with difficult situations and to change our negative thinking patterns and habits. With CBT, “we can train ourselves to alter unhealthy ways of thinking and behaving,” says Rose Madden-Baer, Vice President Behavioral Health, Assessment Services and Special Projects at VNSNY. “The best thing to do is to connect with a behavioral health practitioner, such as a psychologist or a social worker,” recommends Madden-Baer.
Stressed-out caregivers are not always in the best frame of mind and may interpret minor setbacks in a much more negative light. A forgotten appointment may not seem like such a big deal under normal circumstances, but a frazzled caregiver might interpret such an incident as a sign of overall incompetence. (i.e., “I’m a bad caregiver.”) The danger in this type of thinking is that it can ultimately lead to serious bouts of low self-esteem, or even depression. CBT teaches individuals to evaluate their thoughts objectively and come up with healthier responses when faced with stressful situations. For instance, the next time there’s a missed appointment, rather than automatically rushing to the conclusion, “I’m a bad caregiver,” you might think, “Everyone makes mistakes. Forgetting one appointment does not make me a bad person, and it does not make me a bad caregiver.”
“The most important thing to remember is that small changes can go a long way. You can even make it something simple, like carving out 15 minutes of ‘me time’ each day,” says Madden-Baer. Here are a few suggestions for effective ways of using those precious, unscheduled minutes to your advantage.
To find out how VNSNY can help you care for your family member, please call 1-800-675-0391.