By: Donald Loucks, MD
While the holidays are a fun and joyous time of the year, the additional responsibilities of decorating, cooking, shopping and family gatherings can sometimes become a lot to handle for caregivers of elderly loved ones. Juggling holiday responsibilities can easily become stressful, and it’s important to be mindful of the signs of rising stress and anxiety and to be aware of community resources that can help ease the holiday burden.
As a caregiver, your stress level will be higher than that of most people. Researchers have found that caregivers tend to have higher blood pressure, higher insulin levels and a weakened immune system. Many caregivers report depression, increased anxiety and uncommon outbursts of anger. Being mindful of your overall health is important.
Have you noticed yourself losing your temper or getting unreasonably angry with family members? Have you had any dramatic mood swings? Maybe you’ve cried when no one was looking or felt hopeless when faced with everything that needs to be taken care of? These are all signs that your stress levels are too high, and you may need to reduce the amount of activities you are undertaking or look for assistance managing your schedule.
There are adult day services available in town for caregivers who need to free up time in their schedules to handle day-to-day responsibilities and special projects. With your loved one taken care of for the day, you can run errands, or take some time for yourself to relax and regroup. It’s important for caregivers to remember that self care is an essential element to caring for a loved one.
Centers providing adult day services are staffed by nurses and social workers who are skilled in dealing with the unique needs of an aging population as well as individuals who require medical supervision or may be experiencing difficulties in daily life activities due to dementia (Alzheimer's and/or Parkinson's), stroke, depression, anxiety, grief, loneliness. Centers may also provide recreational activities and therapies onsite, as well as nutritious snacks and meals.
Believe it or not, your loved one probably needs a break just as much as you do. Being in a social environment gives them the opportunity to make friends, be more active and establish new hobbies through an art or music therapy program. It could be just what you or your loved one needs to help keep both parties happy and stress-free.
Adult day services also provide caregivers with more time to focus on exercising, eating healthy and getting more rest. These activities will help caregivers reduce their stress levels while improving their overall health. If you are feeling overwhelmed, it is important to remember that there is help and support within the community that can help you and your loved one enjoy a brighter holiday season.