Help for handling caregiver stress, anxiety, guilt

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As you might be aware, the population is rapidly aging globally. More people are requiring care than ever before. According to a recent study by the Home Care Association of America of adults age 65 and older, nine out of 10 want to stay in their home. However, 40 percent need daily assistance.

Individuals caring for a senior parent or loved one experience a wide range of emotions on their caregiving journey.

Family caregivers usually provide help with groceries, errands, attending doctor's appointments and emotional support, such as companionship, laughter, encouragement and compassion.

A majority of caregivers experience the positive side, including feeling loved and appreciated.

Caregivers who hide or repress feelings associated with their role are more likely to experience deep negative emotions and changes in their own health. Some report feeling overwhelming anxiety, frustration and guilt for losing patience with a loved one.

Others who have siblings feel resentment toward them for not doing more to help. Factors that influence negative emotions include the amount of time they provide care each week.

The likelihood that caregivers will repress or hide their emotions increases if the loved one has Alzheimer's, requires more than 20 hours of care a week, or needs heavy physical or personal care.

Negative health consequences might be fatigue, difficulty sleeping, depression, weight loss or gain, back pain, high blood pressure or headaches. If providing constant care, the caregiver needs time away from the situation.

Some barriers to seeking outside help could be feeling that they owe it to the person to care for them; feeling that no one else can provide quality care like they do; not trusting anyone else to come into the home; saying their loved one refuses to accept outside help without asking them; or fear of not being in control.

By refusing help, caregivers greatly increase their chances of being physically ill themselves. It is well known that 40 percent of the caregivers of a person with Alzheimer's or Dementia might die before the person receiving the care.

For most surveyed, the journey has been a rewarding experience. For those who are having a negative experience, time for socialization and rejuvenation can occur by asking for assistance or hiring a licensed agency with trained caregivers to provide care.

In the past, there were few care options other than family or nursing homes. Now there are day programs, assisted living and memory care communities, home health agencies (if appropriate), hospice care and many in-home care agencies.

You don't have to make the journey alone. There are many resources in this community that can assist you. The journey becomes easier if you have support and are rested.

Some websites that could be helpful to visit are www.caregiverstress.com and www.helpforalzheimersfamilies.com, or the book "Stages of Senior Care: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Making the Best Decisions" by Paul and Lori Hogan.

Rachel Carson is the owner of Home Instead Senior Care serving Jasper and Beaufort counties since 1997.

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