Coping techniques: Caregivers

Please note that you should always consult with your physician before making any changes in your diet, your level of exercise and activity, medication or behaviors related to substance use.

The best way to make use of these techniques is to read through them, select three that stand out to you and practice them. I would be glad to hear from you on your responses.

  1. First, remind yourself what the stewardess or steward tells you before the plane takes off: put your own oxygen mask in place before attempting to help anyone else.
  2. This is the Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Find a way most compatible to your spiritual preferences to say this as you provide care to the person you love.
  3. Therefore, identify what you can accomplish and focus your energies there. Identify the things over which you have no control, so that you don’t waste your energy trying to do the things you can’t.
  4. Monitor guilt and note how you respond to it. For instance, does guilt tell you not to take care of yourself? Or that you’re supposed to handle every situation that comes up on your own? Your loved one may have needs that you aren’t able to address. And attending to their needs may prevent you from taking care of other matters. Be compassionate towards yourself.
  5. Reach out to others for support. This can mean asking family members to take on some specific duties, either direct caregiving or collateral tasks like shopping. If you ask someone who likes to cook to cook a meal, it’s more likely that they’ll agree to do so. Schedule time with supportive and non-judgmental friends to share recent events and to let off steam.
  6. Reaching out can also mean searching for resources in your community or healthcare system. Are there support groups for caregivers? Does your doctor’s office or medical center have a social worker with whom you can consult about in-home care options? Is there an agency that provides services for people impacted by what your loved one is impacted by? Senior service centers and your local Department of Mental Health can also be useful resources.
  7. Is there a local resource that can train you in skills related to your caregiving situation? An increased sense of knowledge and mastery of the tasks specific to your loved one’s situation can decrease your levels of stress. Such training resources can include Red Cross; the wellness component of healthcare insurance; nursing staff associated to your local medical center, service agencies or hospice; and social workers, occupational therapists and discharge planners at hospitals. Your local library is also likely to have books related to training the skills specific to your situation, as well as caregiver handbooks.
  8. As you are providing support to someone consider that you also require care, beginning with self-care. Someone providing support to you on a one-to-one basis can be very effective. Depression, anxiety, anger and grief are normal responses to caregiving, and their symptoms can be reduced. This support might be available at your church or temple, social service agency and of course in individual therapy. It can also be effective to schedule with a supportive friend or family member to check in with you on a regular basis.
  9. Self-care includes eating balanced meals, getting exercise and adequate sleep. It also includes following up on your own medical care.  Let your own doctor knows that you’re performing caregiver duties. Practices to decrease stress are essential, including walks, breaks, meditation, or long hot baths. Less helpful is self-medication.
  10. Consider starting the day with a self-care ritual. This might be writing in a journal, meditation, reading poetry or an inspirational text, listening to uplifting music, gentle exercise, prayer or chanting an affirmative mantra. It helps you enter the day gently, and lets you remember that even though you have responsibilities, you can access some of your time for yourself. This is also an effective practice to guard against burn-out.
  11. Consider: how can you pamper yourself? Of the resources available to you, what good thing can be put in place for you sometime in the day?