Golden Days

In association with Home Instead Senior Care

Coping with caregiver stress

My daughter, who has a full-time job and a young family, is also caring for her elderly father-in-law. She is run ragged and is exhausted because she is taking his care entirely on her own shoulders, but she can't see the damage it is doing to her and her family. How can I help?

You are right to be concerned. It sounds like your daughter is suffering from caregiver stress and she needs to take some positive action to avoid becoming burnt out all together.

Caregiver stress is a recognised condition and is particularly prevalent in carers who have their own families and jobs to deal with. These carers are spreading themselves too thin in terms of trying to do everything themselves and this can have a detrimental effect on their marriages, jobs and personal lives.

In the worst-case scenario, your daughter could damage her relationship with her husband and children, lose her job or her health. Depression is a common symptom of caregiver stress, reported by over 20 pet cent of family carers. She needs to take positive action now to make sure she starts taking care of herself so that she is able to continue caring properly for others.

Home Instead knows all about caregiver stress and is continually looking at methods we can teach our professional carers to learn to deal with it. We recently compiled all that knowledge into a useful information booklet called Running On Empty — Who Cares for the Carers? for use by family caregivers. Your first step to helping your daughter could be to pick up a free copy available from our office.

The guide outlines the symptoms to look out for to recognise caregiver stress. Letting your daughter see in print some of the experiences she is going through may help her to realise that she shouldn't continue trying to do everything herself.

It also offers some simple hints and tips on how family caregivers can alleviate their stress. This means taking regular time out for themselves. The carers can find themselves believing they are the only people able to offer the correct level of care, but in fact it may benefit the elderly person to have more than one source of care.

If you are in a position to do so, offer to help. Even small things like doing the shopping, sitting with her father-in-law while your daughter goes to the hairdresser, or picking her children up from school, will relieve some of the pressure. Talk to her husband and other family members to see if they can assist in the little things too. Gradually allow your daughter to realise that she is not alone, help is out there.

Why not suggest enlisting the help of a professional caregiver for a few hours a day while your daughter is at work? She won't have the worry of her father-in-law being alone and some of the regular chores such as bathing, laundry, attending appointments, and meal preparation will be taken care of. Your daughter can relax knowing her father-in-law is in safe hands.

Home Instead Senior Care is Ireland's trusted source of home care for seniors. Phone 091 384160 or visit www.homeinstead.ie

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