Reducing the Stress of Employed Caregivers

Reducing the Stress of Employed Caregivers
On August 27, 2011 Eilene Zimmerman, the Career Couch Columnist of the New York Times published a helpful article, “Easing the Stress of Daily Care-Giving,” for those caregivers who work outside the home. Be aware that balancing your life as an employee and a caregiver, especially for a loved one afflicted with Alzheimer’s can lead to chronic stress which means – a chronic state of high alert and physical inflammation. Chronic stress triggers long periods of distraction, irritability, forgetfulness, fatigue, guilt, physical aches and pain, poor sleeping and poor eating habits. Often caregivers get sick when they don’t take care of themselves.

How to cope:

  • Do what pilots and doctors do – they have a team. So, if one is tired, another will pick up the slack. There is great energy in a team. Find your team of professionals, family, friends and community volunteers.
  • Share your extra responsibilities with your supervisor/boss and the colleagues you work with daily. They need to know why you sometimes have to leave in the middle of the day for a doctor’s appointment for the person in your charge or to understand when you get an upsetting, destabilizing phone call. Also, they can alleviate your own guilt feelings by creating a flexible arrangement where you can make up the work.
  • Talk to the Human Resources Department about taking a short leave of absence through the Medical Leave Act. Denise Brown from asserts that just a couple of weeks off from work can help you set a care-giving plan into action to ease your mind.

In “Easing the Stress of Daily Care-Giving” I was quoted with the following:

  • Exercise is the most effective way to relieve stress while increasing endorphins – feelings of well being. After you exercise, you will feel more optimistically resilient.
  • Make sure to eat properly, sleep and find a hobby as a creative outlet to fill the void in your heart. You have a right to your authentic life.
  • Get help and this doesn’t need to be expensive – in fact, it can be free. There are graduate and college students majoring in sociology, psychology and geriatric care who are looking for internships in their field along with much-needed letters of recommendations. They can visit and spend time with your loved one, stimulating and serving as your “eyes.” This is a win-win situation.
  • Avoid dwelling on “WHY ME?” thinking. Everyone gets hit with problems sooner or later in their lives. Instead live in the present the way Alzheimer’s patients do. One moment can be bad and the next can be good. You will have more energy when you accept what is and do your best as opposed to beating your head against the wall in frustration. Turn your stress into strength.
  • Keep in mind that work can be a saving grace. When you are at work and you do your job well, you will feel good about yourself. You can tap into a larger personal identity. And work can give you a much needed break from care-giving. You could find yourself feeling revitalized when you just do your work – I know I did.

For more information on caregiving read my book, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show

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