Hurricane Sandy-Five Years Later

Hurricane Sandy-Five Years Later

By Karen Bromberg

 

Introduction

October, 29, 2012.

It’s a date that’s burned into my brain.

I can’t believe it’s been almost five years since Hurricane Sandy pummeled the New York Metropolitan area causing fires and flood, causing houses to be damaged and destroyed. It’s amazing that after all this time, there are still some people who haven’t been able to return to their homes. The storm also caused billions of dollars worth of damage to the New York City subway system; damage that still being repaired.

On a far more personal note, it forced my parents out of their home, never to return.

Floodwaters destroyed almost everything in their basement and there was damage to their first floor as well. There was mold, too. Lots of mold. So much mold that my husband and I could smell it every time we went into their house. I kept getting sick from it.

The contractor we hired told us that it would cost upwards of $100,000 to make the house safe for my parents to return (no one had that), coupled with the flood insurance my parents would now have to carry (because, with Hurricane Sandy, their area became a flood zone), the cost for them to return became prohibitive.

 

Immediately After The Storm

There are no words to describe the feelings I had seeing the block I grew up on right after the storm. The closest I can get is to say that it felt as though I was in mourning. I looked around my old “stomping grounds,” as my mother would put it, and all I could think was “How could something like this happen?”

I remember my husband, nephew and I racing down my parents’ block, the only lights coming from the hard hats worn by the Con-Ed and Cablevision crews, the grrrr, grrrr, grrrr of the water pumps pumping water out from the basements and the smell of mold coming from the mounds of wet books, furniture and papers that had been placed at the curb for Sanitation crew to pick up and take away the following day.

There was the first time I looked into my parents’ flood-ravaged basement, expecting everything to be where it has always been — My grandfather’s barber chair and pole (taken from the shop he owned back in the 50’s) on the wall to the left. My parents’ old clothes and furniture, straight-ahead, toward the middle of the basement. The carriage my grandmother had pushed her baby boys (my father and uncle) in off to the right, opposite the stairs. I shone my flashlight into the darkness but all I saw was this gigantic, smelly, mold-covered mound in the center of the floor.

At first I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. It took me a moment , then I realized. “Oh my heavens,” was all I could say as I thought about how I was going to break the news to my parents. Seeing all their belongings ruined like that . . . well all I can say is that it broke my heart!

I called my parents’ insurance broker to let him know what happened. I wanted to know how much their homeowners’ policy paid for flood-damage. Boy, was I shocked. Turned out my parents didn’t have flood insurance.

“It was expensive and since the house wasn’t in a flood zone,” their insurance broker me, “I advised your father years ago not to bother. Why incur the added expense?”

And to think I always assumed that all houses carried flood insurance as part their typical insurance package. I thought it was SOP (standard operating procedure), that any responsible homeowner would carry it and any responsible insurance broker would advise their client to have it. Silly me, though in retrospect, I believe the broker and my father were right. Up until Hurricane Sandy the house wasn’t in a flood zone.

 

Since The Storm

In my mind Hurricane Sandy acts as a kind of demarcation in my life. There’s the time before the storm – the time when my parents were in their home of 47 years, the same I grew up in – and the time afterwards – the time when they were in their Assisted Living then their Nursing Home facilities.

It was also the time when the veil of denial was lifted from my eyes, when I finally saw (for the first time) that my parents were old. Interestingly enough, I never really had before.

When I looked at my parents prior to Hurricane Sandy, the people I saw were the same ones I always saw. Sure they were shorter than they used to be and they walked with canes. Their skin was looser and my mother was having more difficulty with the front steps. But the little girl living behind my eyes didn’t see any of that. She stubbornly held onto the images of Mommy and Daddy she had from decades ago.

It wasn’t until my parents were in their Assisted Living facility that I finally saw them –  89 and 90 years old, spunky, and independent. 

Realizing that they were elderly, realizing that death was closer than further . . . well, suffice it to say it was not a pretty moment!

 

Some Thoughts on the Upcoming Fifth Anniversary

Shortly after Hurricane Sandy hit, a friend told me something I’ve never forgotten. He said, “You probably can’t see it now, but one day you’ll look back and see that this as a blessing in disguise.”

I laughed. A blessing? And while I still wouldn’t call Hurricane Sandy a blessing, exactly, I now, after almost five years, finally understand what he was saying.

The hurricane forced me to deal:

  1. with the fact that my parents were elderly,
  2. that one day (sooner than later) they’ll die, and
  3. that I’d have to deal with the disposition of their belongings, as much as I didn’t want to.

It also allowed for certain things as well, like:

  1. asking my my mother what things she wanted me to get rid of and what things she wanted me to hold onto. While holding no monetarily valuable, it’s those things now have the deepest sentimental value now that my parents are no longer here.
  2. getting my parents blessing to see the house. Now, to be honest, I would’ve done it anyway. I didn’t like the house and neither did my husband. We were not going to live in it  and we had no desire to rent it. But, since the house had been in my family since my grandparents’ time, I felt awkward and guilty being the one to sell it. Having my parents’ approval made it a little easier to get through the process.
  3. pre-arranging their funerals. That was a biggie. Prior to the storm, we NEVER spoke about what they wanted or how they wanted it. With the storm, we were forced to have “the conversation” and when the time came, all my husband had to do was make one phone call to the funeral home.

Now, let’s be clear. I would never say that I’m glad Hurricane Sandy happened. NEVER. EVER. NOT IN MY WILDEST DREAMS. NOT IN A MILLIONS YEARS would I ever make a claim like that. It doesn’t matter how many “blessings in disguise” I received. I’d never want anyone to be forced from their home, the way my parents were, but when the universe gives us lemons we have two choices. We can either suck on those sour lemons and live our lives forevermore with our lips puckered or we can made lemonade. I choose to made lemonade! Are you with me?

 

“The Unsuspecting Caregiver: My Experiences in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy and the Lessons I’ve Learned from It” will soon be available on Amazon.

 

Did you find the information in this blog useful? Do you have any questions? If so, please let us know. Simply write your comment or question in the space at the bottom of the page.
Karen Bromberg is the founder of Helpyouthru.com. She is a certified yoga instructor and a certified caregiving consultant. If you’d like to get in touch with her, please email at staff@helpyouthru.com Check her out on Facebook. Feel free to join her FREE Facebook group, “The Caregiving Community,” a place by and for present and former family caregivers. Simply click the green “Join” button on the top of the page. Be the first to find out information pertaining to Help You Thru. Join the mailing list.
A Lesson From The Heart

A Lesson From The Heart

By Karen Bromberg

 

Introduction

 

As family caregivers, we give so much. Don’t we?

 

We run with our loved ones to their doctor’s appointments. We help them with their shopping and with their cooking. We may help them clean their homes and we may help them balance their checkbooks.

 

If their physical or mental condition deteriorates, we may move them into our homes so that we can better take care of them.

 

We may decide to get someone into the house to help feed them, change their clothes and/or help them with their bathroom needs; or we may decide to take care of those tasks ourselves.

 

We do so many things for so many people throughout the course of a day: our spouses, our children, our jobs, the person/people we care for. We are taking care of so many things for so many people; but tell me, who’s there to take care of us, the family caregivers?

 

Selflessness vs. Selfishness

 

According to Dictionary.com, being selfless (or selflessness) is “having little or no concern for oneself, especially with regard to fame, position, money, etc.” whereby being selfish, or selfishness, (also according to Dictionary.com,) is being “1. devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with ones’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.” and “2. characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself.”

 

Given these definitions, it’s pretty clear which category family caregiving falls into and the stats prove that out. According to AARP’s 2015 Caregiving in The U.S. “Approximately 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the prior 12 months.”

 

There are family caregivers who regularly find themselves in debt and I’m not talking about a little debt. I’m talking about thousands of dollars worth of debt (my husband and I were five thousand dollars in debt and we got off cheaply!)

 

What about those caregivers who have to regularly take time off from work to run with their care recipients for doctors’ appointments or those caregivers who are laid off from their jobs because of their caregiving responsibilities? It’s a known fact that family caregivers are at risk for health problems of their own because they  don’t take the time to eat properly, rest properly or go to their own doctors for a checkup.

 

From my experience having been a family caregiver and observing other family caregivers, if asked “Do you consider yourself to be selfish or selfless” most wouldn’t know. Oh, they might cite examples of times they behaved selflessly but then immediately turn around and cite the same amount of examples of them being selfish. “Like the time my mother wanted me to come up to the nursing home to visit but instead I decided to go to the movies” or “the time we had to pick my father up but we decided instead of going the more direct route, we’d take the round about one to give us a few extra minutes to ourselves.” Then there’s the daughter who, against her mother’s wishes, brings her mother to respite care one afternoon a week just so she could have “a little quiet time.”

 

We get so good at giving to everyone else: our spouses, our children, our jobs, our care recipients, that we forget to give to ourselves. We hold ourselves to such “high standards” that if we do ANYTHING for ourselves, anything, we think we’re being selfish.

 

It’s like caregiving is an all-or-nothing proposition, like if I give (even a little) to me, it means I can’t give to you and vice versa but that’s not true. By all means, do the things you need to for your care recipient. They are relying on you, then (making sure that your caregiving recipient is safe) go ahead and do what you need to to keep yourself grounded. Maybe get into a routine of doing something just for you. Perhaps first thing in the morning before anyone else gets up. Have some quiet, alone time if that’s your thing.

 

You see, the problem is, as I see it, it isn’t that we give to ourselves but that we forget the above definitions of what it means to be selfish or selfless, or rather we’re getting them confused. We’re not selfish if we decide to go to the movies one day instead of visiting Mother and we’re not selfless if we choose (one time) to see Mother instead of going to the movies.

 

There has to be a balance.

 

Two examples.

  1. The instructions given on an airplane. Do you recall what they are? My guess is not. Most of us are busy reading our books or magazines, waiting impatiently for the TV to be turned on, to pay much attention. I’m not an exception. Occasionally I do listen and what I hear is (and I’m paraphrasing here, make sure to put your oxygen mask over your nose and make sure there’s a flow of air before you try helping anyone else. The reason they say that? It’s because if you become oxygen deprived, you’re not going to be able to be of help to anyone.
  2. The way the heart pumps blood. Those who have taken human physiology and anatomy might remember that the heart is made up of four chambers; the upper ones receiving blood from the body and lungs; the lower ones pumping the blood to the body and lungs and an artery that feeds the heart first. That’s right. The heart, which gives nourishment to the rest of our body, makes sure to feed itself first.

 

So what does that tell us?

 

For one thing, it tells that we must give to ourselves, okay maybe not before anyone else and maybe not all the time, like the heart does, but perhaps some of the time. It also tells us that giving to ourselves is not selfish at all but in fact a necessary part of life. We have to give to ourselves as well as to the ones we’re caring for, at least once in a while, because if we don’t we’ll end up getting sick and if we get sick, who will be there to care for our loved ones?

 

It’s important that we keep a balanced, healthy life (or as least as balanced and healthy a life as a family caregiver’s life can get). I mean, we don’t expect to be able to drive a car when there’s no gas in the tank? So how can we expect to effectively give to others over a long period of time if we don’t occasionally recharge our own batteries?

 

What’s the adage? “You can’t give from an empty cup.”

 

 

 

Did you find the information in this blog useful? Do you have any questions? If so, please let us know. Simply write your comment or question in the space at the bottom of the page.

Karen Bromberg is the founder of Helpyouthru.com. She is a certified yoga instructor and a certified caregiving consultant. If you’d like to get in touch with her, please email at staff@helpyouthru.com Check her out on Facebook. Feel free to join her FREE Facebook group, “The Caregiving Community,” a place by and for present and former family caregivers. Simply click the green “Join” button on the top of the page. Be the first to find out information pertaining to Help You Thru. Join the mailing list.

 

The Why and How of Relaxation

The Why and How of Relaxation

By Karen Bromberg

 

Introduction

 

In a previous blog post entitled Caregiver Stress, I mentioned the body’s “fight or flight” response. Today, I want to look a little more deeply into this because from my perspective, it becomes easier to navigate something once we can understand it. 

 

The physiology of stress

 

So, the physiology of stress. It’s complicated but I will do my best to simplify it as much possible. In the body, we have the Autonomic Nervous System and, as Dr. Phillip Low, MD, Professor of Neurology; Consultant, Department of Neurology, College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic; Mayo Clinic says in an article entitled Overview of the Autonomic Nervous System, “The autonomic nervous system regulates certain body processes, such as blood pressure and the rate of breathing. This system works automatically (autonomously), without a person’s conscious effort.

Within the Autonomic Nervous System, we have the sympathetic nervous system responsible for the “flight or fight response” and the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for “rest and recovery.”

So when we get stressed, our bodies immediately kick into action. Hormones get secreted and the body readies itself for action. In an article entitled The Physiology of Stress: Cortisol and The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis, author Michael Randal states that “The human stress response involves a complex signaling pathway among neurons and somatic cells” with cortisol being “the primary hormone responsible for the stress response.” According to him, “The effects of cortisol are felt over virtually the entire body and impact several homeostatic mechanisms. While cortisol’s primary targets are metabolic, it also affects ion transport, the immune response, and even memory.”

Now, remember not all stress is bad. Some of it is, depending on the situation, can even be beneficial. It can help us when we have that mountain of work to do, or if have to go to that board meeting that we just don’t want to. Stress can be just the motivator we need to get us over the hump. 

The problem is when we have too much of it over time and it becomes chronic. As Jane Collingwood states in an article titled, The Physical Effects of Long-Term Stress on psychcentral.com, “Chronic stress can have a serious impact on our physical as well as psychological health due to sustained high levels of the chemicals released in the ‘fight or flight’ response.” 

But there is good news, too. It comes in the form of the parasympathetic nervous system because this system allows the body to throttle back, relax and recover but we have to give it time so do that.

“How much? An hour? Two hours?” I hear you asking. “Come-on, I’m busy. I can’t afford to sit around, twiddling my thumbs, waiting for my parasympathetic nervous system. I have responsibilities. A spouse. Kids. A job. Not to mention everything I have to do for Mom (or Dad, or whomever).”

Yeah, I get that. Not all that long ago I would’ve said the exact same thing, only I probably wouldn’t have said it quite so nicely.

 

So, really, how long will does it take?

 

The other piece of good news is that it doesn’t have to take that long at all. Really, it depends on how much time YOU have. A few minutes? Totally fine. But if you have longer than that, it’s even better.

So, for the sake of this discussion, let’s say you have a weekend all to yourself. Yes, a whole weekend. Two days. Forty-eight hours. With nothing to do for anyone but yourself. Your sister finally decided to step up to the plate. She’s going to come over and stay with Mom so that you can take the weekend off and get some much-needed R & R. Yipee. You’re thrilled. You don’t ask why she’s suddenly making herself so available. You don’t ask why she’s making the offer, you just accept it and start planning what you’re going to do – maybe go to the mountains or go to the beach – and what you are going to take with you.

You imagine packing and all of a sudden you become even more tired. The thought of actually getting in a car and hauling yourself anywhere feels just too much. You are that pooped. The solution, go to a nearby hotel, maybe even one with a spa. You can rent a room, get a massage and room service, really pamper yourself and if you happen to be a worrier (like me) being close by if your sister calls in a panic about something having to do with Mom, you can still check in at the house (if that makes you feel better) then “disappear” again. 

But what if you only have a couple of hours? Mom is at respite care and you know better than anyone that her limit for being out of the house is two hours, no more. After that she gets cranky. So what then? How about an exercise class? Maybe a yoga class? Being a yoga practitioner for over twenty years and a yoga teacher, I can tell you, first-hand, how powerful yoga is when it comes to relaxing the body and clearing the mind. 

But if exercise classes and yoga aren’t your thing, how about going to the mall? Or take a gentle walk in nature? You can call a friend and the two of you can go for a mani/pedi together then maybe for lunch afterward.

If you have only twenty minutes? Meditation or do a deep relaxation. If you don’t know how, you can always Google meditation or deep relaxation or, if you prefer, you can always go onto helpyouthru.com. There, you will find instructional video clips. Simply scroll down for the video you want.

And if you have only a couple of minutes . . . deep breathing exercises. Again, feel free to do a Google for instructions but for convenience, again feel free to onto helpyouthru.com and scroll down.

 

 

 

Have you found the information in this blog useful? Please let us know by commenting below.

Karen Bromberg is the founder of Helpyouthru.com as well as a certified caregiving consultant. You can check her out on Facebook. Feel free to join of FREE Facebook group then simply click the green “Join” button on the top of the page. If you’d like to email her, feel free at staff@helpyouthru.com

Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver Burnout

By Karen Bromberg

 

What is it and how does it differ from caregiver stress?

 

I’m so glad you asked.

Caregivers experience stress, that’s a given. It’s like getting sunburnt if you sit out in the sun too long without sunscreen; it’s like getting wet if you walk in the rain without an umbrella. You provide care to someone and you’re going to get stressed. It comes with the territory.

Just run a quick Google search and you’ll see just how prevalent it is. But wait, you may say, isn’t caregiver stress and caregiver burnout the same thing? I mean, I’m looking at my Google search results and they seem to use “caregiver stress” and “caregiver burnout” synonymously.

Well, they’re not. What do I mean? Let’s take a closer look.

Author Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D. points out in a blog post entitled The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout … Do You Have Them? Running out of gas? Recognizing the signs of burnout before it’s too late on Psychologytoday.com, “When in the throes of full-fledged burnout, you are no longer able to function effectively on a personal or professional level.”

 

But, you may be asking, when does stress cross over and become burn-out?

Short answer, it can be different for each person. It is when a loved one is being rushed yet again to the emergency room? Or when one’s mother or father move in and turn a once relatively quiet existence upside down? Perhaps it’s when the doctor gives the dreaded diagnosis after months of a loved one having this or that illness? It may be any one or none of those things.

So . . .

 

Could you be burnt out and not even know it?

 

Maybe.

Several weeks ago, I was preparing to do a Facebook Livestream. The topic? What else? Caregiver Burnout. I read a bunch of articles and blog posts. To my surprise, I found myself identifying with many of the symptoms: inability to function, detachment, overwhelm.

I was amazed. Truly, it was an eye-opener! I mean, I’d been accused of being detached. Imagine my surprise!

To be honest it made total sense. After all, my parents had died. I was busy at my job. I was trying to catch up with things, things that were important to me, things I let slide during my parents’ illnesses and death. In essence, I was trying to get my life back, all while still struggling with exhaustion.

I had no idea I was burnt out, but as Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D. reminds us in her blog post, The Tell Tale Signs of Burnout … Do You Have Them? Running out of gas? Recognizing the signs of burnout before it’s too late in Psycologytoday.com, “You don’t wake up one morning and all of a sudden ‘have burnout.’ Its nature is much more insidious, creeping up on us over time like a slow leak, which makes it much harder to recognize.”

 

So what do I do if I find I’m burnt out?

Even if you think you might be burnt out, the first thing I would do is get checked out by a physician and/or mental health professional, if for no other reason than to get an outsider’s point of view. Now, you can go and talk to a friend, neighbor, or relative and ask him or her if they think you are burnt out but the benefit of being evaluated by a health professional is that the medical professional:

 

  1. is objective,
  2. can help to alleviate the symptoms and
  3. can help to ultimately resolve the condition.

 

It’s so important to stay on top of caregiver burnout, I can’t stress it enough. If not for ourselves, then for the ones we care for.

You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about this whole notion of selfishness vs selflessness. I mean, it’s great when we act selflessly; putting others’ needs ahead of our own, not expecting anything (not even a “thank you”) in return. It’s great. I get it. We feel important. We feel essential. And the truth is, we are.

But there also comes a time when we have to take care of ourselves as well and, no it’s not selfish for us to do so. In fact, if we look at it another way, we can put it along with all the myriad of other selfless acts we perform every day. I mean, we’re taking care of ourselves so that we can stay healthy so that we can take care of our mother, father, spouse, etc. 

And no, it’s not an either/or proposition. It’s not if I take care of myself I can’t take care of my loved one. Not at all. Not even in the slightest. Getting a little rest, doing something else while your loved one is well cared for (possibly in respite care) can make all the difference.

So . . . while waiting for our appointment with our medical professional how about figuring out how much stress we’re under. I know. The answer is “lots,” but “lots” doesn’t really say a lot and the more specific we can be as to the areas of where our stress the more we’ll be able to get out of our appointment. 

In last week’s blog post entitled Caregiver Stress, I addressed ways we can assess our stress levels. My suggestion would be to start there, then once done, bring that information with us and talk about it during our appointment. 

The other reason is that once we know what our stress level is, we can start taking steps toward dialing it back. 

How do we dial it back?  Below are a few ideas:

 

  • Perform relaxation techniques 

    Deep breathing, meditation, deep relaxation are all really good methods for relaxing the body and mind.

 

  • Take a break 

    For some this is tricky. What if you can’t leave the house? What if your loved one is demanding? What if he or she needs to be able to see you or gets upset if he or she can’t? What happens then? Well, you can still take a break. How about sitting in a chair, eyes closed, listening to beautiful music or if you can’t even do that, how about imagining yourself in a lovely garden, perhaps the beach or mountains. Our minds are such powerful instruments. If we can’t change our external environment, how about changing our internal ones. We can put out mind to work in the service of relaxing US.

 

  • Relaxing around the difficulties and challenges 

    What I’m talking about here is a mind-shift. Okay, I can see you there, arms crossed, rolling your eyes but hear me out. What if, instead of tightening your bodies when your loved one says or does something irritating you take a deep breath instead? What if, instead of feeling that jab in the gut, that tightness in the shoulders, you shrug it off as nothing more than a thoughtless word? What if instead of wanting to scream when the doctor’s assistant tells you that the doctor is running two hours late, you simply accept it and let the anger simply wash over and out of you? What then? How much easier would your day be? I’m not saying that you should suppress or repress any emotion. That’s not it at all. And trust me what I’m saying isn’t easy (I’m still working on it) but what if instead of falling into old patterns of reacting, we choose a somewhat different way?

 

  • Find support

    Talk to a friend, family member, someone that you trust and someone that you feel safe with. Remember, there are support groups: in your neighborhood, on the Internet, people who care, people who want to be there for you. Remember, when it comes to family caregiving, there can never be too much support.

 

Did you find the information in this blog useful? Please let us know by commenting below.

Karen Bromberg is the founder of Helpyouthru.com as well as a certified caregiving consultant. You can check her out on Facebook. Feel free to join of FREE Facebook group then simply click the green “Join” button on the top of the page. If you’d like to email her, feel free at staff@helpyouthru.com

 

Caregiver Stress

Caregiver Stress

By Karen Bromberg

What is it?

Stress, as we know, is the body’s “fight or flight” response but as family caregivers how can we, even if we may want to, pick up and leave. We can’t. We know we can’t. Who’d take care of Mom (or Dad, or the spouse, or whomever)? After all, they can’t be left alone. 

Any of this sound familiar? 

It would be so much simpler if we could just get up leave or put up our dukes whenever we find ourselves in a stressful situation while caregiving, wouldn’t it? The getting up and leaving, that we can imagine doing. The putting up our dukes? Why, the picture is almost laughable.

We can’t do that, and we know it, and even if we could, we wouldn’t. We’re caregivers and these are our loved-one. We care for them . . . deeply . . . and want the best for them. That’s why we’ve sacrificed so much for them. (But is it really a sacrifice?)

Yeah, family caregiving can be SO complicated, can’t it? And exhausting. And stressful. It’s so stressful that it’s even a syndrome. Caregiver’s syndrome. I discovered that when I was preparing to do this blog post. I Googled “caregiver stress” and not only did I find numerous articles pertaining to the subject, but what I discovered stunned me. Did you know there’s such a thing as caregiver syndrome? You heard me right. Caregiver Syndrome. If you did, you’re one up on me.

An article on Wikipedia entitled Caregiver Stress describes what I’m sure many a family caregiver has experienced. It says, “Caregiver syndrome or caregiver stress is a condition of exhaustion, anger, rage, or guilt that results from unrelieved caring for a chronically ill dependent.[1] The term is often used by healthcare professionals, but it is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.”

 

Why is this important to know?

Okay, let’s be honest with ourselves. How many of us caregivers actually notice that we’re stressed? 

We go about our day, coping as best we can, trying to maintain our balance, trying to keep our cool. We have SO much on our plates that at times it feels as though it’s about to tip over, but we carry on. We’re smart. We’re capable and we know how to get the things done. That’s just who we are. 

 

So what do we do about it?

1. Try not to feel guilty

This is so important, and I know what you’re probably thinking “it’s easy for her to say that, sitting in her living room, writing this post.” And it’s true, it is easy for me to say it and just so hard to do it, but think about it, what has guilt ever given you besides more guilt? I mean, really, it’s not like guilt is empowering. It doesn’t provide any energy. In fact, quite the opposite. It actually makes us feel more tired. It doesn’t provide a positive outlook. Instead of helping us to see possibilities, all it does is provide us with a gloomy outlook. 

2. Assess your level of stress

How? There’s a variety of ways. Talk to a physician or mental health professional. Mentally go through your body and become aware of what muscles might be tight or tense. Notice if your jaw is clenched. Or if the back of your neck is stiff. Additionally, there are quizzes and scales (many scales and quizzes) easily found on the Internet. Simply do a quick Google search on the topic of “Caregiver Stress Assessment” or ”Caregiver Stress Assessment Tools.” You will see a whole list pop up. Some on this list are connected with Assisted Living or other facilities. Others aren’t. Feel free to choose one or two that speak to you. Think of it as a game. After all, as we’ve so often heard, “knowing is half the battle.”

3. Do things to dial back the stress

Okay, now you’re saying, “Sure. Right. Sounds good, but you don’t have my life.  If you did, you wouldn’t be saying that.” And that’s totally true. I don’t have your life and I have no idea of the specifics of what you go through day-to-day. Even so, (and I don’t want to sound judgmental IN THE SLIGHTEST) but I have to tell you there are things you can do NOW that’ll make you feel at least a little better, no matter how busy you are. I’ll be going over more specific techniques and ideas in upcoming posts but for now allow me to give you a few suggestions.

Accept help when it’s offered. This is no small thing. As caregivers, we feel like everything rests on our shoulders. I know because not only have I’ve spoken to numerous family caregivers, it’s also what I experienced. We think that we’re the only ones who can take care of everything that needs to be taken care of, but that’s not entirely true. Accept the help where appropriate and realize that help may not come from where you expect it, (your brother or sister, for example). It may come from your neighbor down the block ringing your doorbell and asking if you need anything from the grocery store.

Make yourself a priority. As family caregivers, we are so good at putting ourselves last. Exercise? Me? Who has the energy? Cook a healthy meal? Who has the time? But we must take of ourselves (Okay, I see you there rolling your eyes), and I know it’s annoying to hear it, but it’s true. We must take the few, precious moments we can to make better choices for ourselves. Why? If for no other reason (and there are other reasons) than who’d care for our loved ones if something were to happen to us?

Get support. Let’s face it, family caregiving is one of the hardest jobs we’ll likely ever be called on to do and we can’t do it alone! My suggestion, my urging, is to find a group either in your neighborhood or, if you can’t leave the house, online that’ll offer you the support you need. Find a place where you can vent, where you can share, where you can get resources and tips to make your journey that much easier. There are tons on Facebook. Find one (or two or three) that meet your needs. Feel free hang out and not say anything if you choose. You’re not required to share but also don’t be afraid to. Remember, people want to listen, they want to help, and they want to be there for you, even if it’s virtually.

 

 

 

Have you found the information in this blog useful? Please let us know by commenting below.

Karen Bromberg is the founder of Helpyouthru.com as well as a certified caregiving consultant. You can check her out on Facebook. Feel free to join of FREE Facebook group then simply click the green “Join” button on the top of the page. If you’d like to email her, feel free at staff@helpyouthru.com

 

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