Coping with Caregiver Stress
Life as the caregiver of an older adult can be richly rewarding. There are moments of warmth, joy and the good feeling that comes from supporting an elderly family member—in many cases someone who is suffering from a physical or cognitive disability—in their later years. But life as a caregiver also can be lonely, stressful and exhausting; it can be the most difficult job you will ever have. Assistance promised by family members may disappear over time or may never materialize, leaving you alone with a full-time or nearly full-time responsibility. When the care recipient has dementia, difficult behaviors compound the stress and may accelerate burnout.
Handling Caregiving Stress – What Can a Caregiver Do?
First, recognize the signs of that you may be overly stressed and at or approaching burnout. AARP provides some warning signs:
• You aren’t eating well or exercising even a little.
• You’re sick more often.
• You’re feeling stuck and resent it.
• You have emotional swings; angry one minute, blue the next.
• You can barely remember your life before caregiving.
AARP offers 10 strategies on dealing with caregiver stress and burnout at http://tinyurl.com/cg-stress. This article focuses on two of them: taking advantage of resources in the community and finding ways to take a break from caregiving.
Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging
Information and referral assistance services for caregivers are available from the Family Caregiver and Resource Center at the Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging. The Center serves primary caregivers of: (1) physically or cognitively disabled adults 60 years old; and (2) older, or disabled adults under 60. The primary caregiver is expected to be at least 18 years old and a family member, neighbor or friend.
The Center also provides a respite care program to help primary caregivers take some time to take care of themselves. It has agreements with licensed home health, adult day health, skilled nursing and assisted living facilities to enable caregivers to run errands, rest and take some personal time while enjoying peace of mind that the care recipient is in the care of trained professionals.
Respite services are available to all residents of Fulton, Marshall, Peoria, Stark, Tazewell, and Woodford counties, regardless of income or assets. The Center, which assisted more than 1,200 caregivers last year, does not charge for its services.
For more information, contact Mitch Forrest, Family Caregiver Information and Assistance Specialist, at (309) 674-2071.
The Bradley University Counseling, Research & Training Clinic provides emotional support to help family caregivers and grandparents raising grandchildren cope with their caregiving roles, and develop and strengthen their capacities for better social and personal adjustments. Caregivers meet other caregivers, learn how to self-care and how to be there without always “being there”. The Clinic sponsors three caregiver support groups in Peoria.
Peoria Caregiver Support Group—2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month from 1:00-2:30 p.m. at the Central Illinois Agency on Aging
Senior World Caregiver Support Group—every Thursday from 1:30-3:00 p.m. at OSF Senior World Adult Day Care Center
Liberty Village Caregiver Support Group—2nd Monday from 1:00-2:30 p.m. at Liberty Village of Peoria
Contact the Clinic at (309) 677-3189 to confirm times and exact addresses. There is no charge for services. Bradley University also provides support groups for grandparents raising grandchildren.
The Central Illinois Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association provides six caregiver support groups for caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease in Peoria and Tazewell counties.
Lutheran Hillside Village, Peoria—3rd Tuesday of the month at 6:00 p.m
PALZ, Peoria—2nd Thursday at 3:00 p.m.
St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, Peoria—3rd Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.
Pearce Community Center, Chillicothe —3rd Monday at 6:30 p.m
Apostolic Christian Restmor, Morton—3rd Thursday at 1:30 p.m.
First United Methodist Church, East Peoria—2nd Tuesday at 1:00 p.m.
Call the Alzheimer’s Association at (800) 272-3900 to confirm times and the exact addresses. The Chapter also provides caregiver support groups in Marshall, Stark and Woodford counties. Call or go to www.alz.org for more information.
Private Pay Respite Resources
The services of a private pay home care agency can be an effective solution when the caregiver needs a regular short break of, for example, several hours to run errands or simply have some “me time.” By using a licensed home care agency, the caregiver has peace of mind that the person staying with her care recipient is a trained, screened individual who can be relied on to be there.
When a caregiver needs to be away for a longer period of time to deal with other responsibilities, especially when the care recipient has complex medical needs, a skilled nursing facility that offers respite services may be the best answer.