A Guide to Caring for Aging Family Members

Caregiver Stress Webinar

Click on http://youtu.be/GfKS98UTjB4 to view a UCLA Health Webinar on “Surviving Caregiver Stress” by Linda Ercoli, PhD.

Young Man with His Hand on His Forehead

ALL STRESSED OUT

Every caregiver who watches the webinar will find something that resonates with their own unique caregiving situation.

Some of the points that resonate with me are:

  1. Caregiving stress is impacted by the length and the load of the caregiving experience.
    I was caregiver of my mother-in-law for seven years, four in my home. The last two years were characterized by escalating physical decline in conjunction with increased caregiving needs. What had been an overall positive caregiving experience became unmanageable.
  2. Caregiver stress is increased when there are fewer uplifts (positive perceptions).
    I had assumed my caregiving role as a means to “give back” and show my appreciation.  When I sensed my mother-in-law’s air of resentment, the positive perceptions of the arrangement eroded.
  3. Caregiver stress is impacted by role changes.
    My mother-in-law was fiercely independent. She could not accept what she perceived as a “relinquishment” of control, such as when I began to set up her medications.
  4. Caregiver stress is greater when there are perceived problems relating to the family, as well as the care receiver.
    We called a family meeting to discuss our need for increased support relative to increasing needs.  My husband’s siblings were defensive.  As relationships diminished, stress increased.  As noted above, when my mother-in-law felt her “autonomy” decreased, her “animosity” increased.
  5. Coping strategies include “doing for self” through exercise, nutrition, activities, etc.
    When I took time for myself or looked for ways to meet increasing needs, I was accused of being selfish. My mother-in-law stated, “Everything is for your convenience.”
  6. Coping strategies include availing yourself of opportunities for respite.
    When I utilized hospice respite, I was again labeled as “selfish.”
  7. Coping strategies include finding support.
    I joined to a support group; it was instrumental to maintaining my sanity and making difficult choices.
  8. Coping strategies include setting limits.
    When my sister-in-law said she could not have Mom for Christmas because there would be three dogs and a grandchild there, my husband told her we would have one dog and seven grandchildren—our “request” was not negotiable.
  9. Caregivers should be aware of escalating caregiver burden:  exhaustion, medical problems, unrealistic expectations, poor relationships, the need to control an uncontrollable situation.
    Providing my mother-in-law with ambulatory support became unsafe since I was now in need of bilateral knee replacements.
  10. Caregivers should plan and prepare to transition to other care models when the burden becomes too great.
    Although she did not want to leave our home, my mother-in-law moved to her daughter’s home when I could no longer care for her safely.

Barbara Matthews

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