Monday, July 13, 2020

Being a Caregiver and Stress

As I have mentioned before, being a caregiver is a difficult job, but being a caregiver for an individual with Alzheimer's or the other Dementias is a 36-hour job! Being on that daily stress rollercoaster is beyond challenging. Finding time for YOU (the Caregiver) is crucial!!. I don't have to mention the many benefits of taking time for you! It is vital for your health!

When I was the support group facilitator in my prior job, I met two caregivers in different time frames. One thing that these two caregivers had in common, aside from their loved ones being diagnosed with Alzheimer's was that they were the main caregivers, they wouldn't accept help and as a result, their stress levels affected their health, so much that they passed away suddenly from heart attacks. They were under tremendous stress, trying to handle every single thing having to with their loved ones' care. Please learn to say: I need help or Can you please help me do..... become familiar and love DELEGATING it will change your life, and how you take care of your loved one.

It is well documented in many medical journals that stress if not managed can and will kill you!

Let's start with what is stress? Stress is the body's reaction to harmful situations -- whether they’re real or perceived. A chemical reaction occurs in your body that allows you to act in a way to prevent injury. This reaction is known as "fight-or-flight,” or the stress response. During a stress response, your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises. You’ve gotten ready to act. Our bodies are designed to handle small doses of stress. But, we are not equipped to handle long-term chronic stress without ill consequences; for us the caregivers of Alzheimer's and Dementia individuals, our days are filled with chronic stress.  Riding that emotional rollercoaster on a daily basis can take a huge toll, on many aspects of our lives. Including our emotions, behaviors, thinking ability, and physical health. No part of the body is immune. But, because people handle stress differently, symptoms of stress can vary. 

Cognitive symptoms of stress include:
Many, if not all of these symptoms remind me of a Pre- Alzheimer's or Dementia diagnosis. Most individuals display these symptoms.
  • Constant worrying
  • Racing thoughts
  • Forgetfulness and disorganization
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor judgment
  • Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
I know of a computer engineer that lost his job because he exhibited many of the symptoms mentioned on the list above. His wife took him to see a neurologist and he was diagnosed with FTD, he is extremely high functioning. With the help of his wife, he has been able to keep somewhat independent. She very patiently makes up his daily routines, makes a to-do list for him, which she explains several times. Because of this, he is able to keep a normal routine. It is actually a remarkable story. As a matter of fact, his wife reached out to me a few weeks ago, just to touch base. He is doing well and their daughters are back home from the university and helping out with their Dad.

Going back to our subject; 

What Are the Consequences of Long-Term Stress?
  • A little stress every now and then is not something to be concerned about. Ongoing, chronic stress, however, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems, including a little stress every now and then is not something to be concerned about. Ongoing, chronic stress, however, can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems, including:
  • Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
  • Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke
  • Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss
  • Gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon
Stress is part of our daily life we need to pay attention to how we handle it. If you have any of these symptoms I strongly encourage you to please talk to your PCP. Be honest and explain the situation that you are going thru.

When I was going thru my divorce my Mom was living with us, I had just given birth to my beautiful daughter. I was beyond stressed out as my Mom who was at the beginning stages of her disease FTD was having so many behavioral issues. I just wanted to run away, to escape; it has been the darkest time in my life. And I worked at the Day Program
where I managed the staff and ran the activities program, our patients had an Alzheimer's or Dementia diagnosis. I noticed that I was having daily headaches, that wouldn't go away with Ibuprofen, Tylenol, or Excedrin. I went to see my doctor and she put me on BP medication because she almost sent me to the ER when she saw the BP readings. She recommended that I needed to find an outlet for my stress, I took up kayaking! I loved it,
and the best part it really helped. I have taken both my kids kayaking many times, they also love it.

My message is; You! the caregiver needs to take care of yourself! in order to take care of others.  I know you know this, but how about you do something about it!

Yes, with COVID19 around it limits what we can do, you can find so many resources online. I had a friend that used to hit empty cardboard boxes to release her stress, she said that really helped her in after a crisis. She would go out to the garage and go crazy hitting the boxes, walking back to the house relaxed. Check out my Pinterest page you'll find something in there. Check out YouTube they have loads of videos, of course, I have my favorites:

I do this one, Leslie is always full of contagious energy, love her:

and this one, I love Sherry, her voice is so soothing:

If you would like to read the full article on stress, follow this link:

We are on this bumpy road together, you are not alone!
Be Prepared, Be Informed, Be Empowered.
I send you lots of virtual good vibes.