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8 Signs of Caregiver Stress

Are you or someone you know a caregiver? It’s important for caregivers to make sure that while they’re looking after others, they’re also looking after themselves.

 

Being a caregiver for a loved one with a chronic or complex condition can be stressful due to the high levels of dependency and care the individual requires. Noting signs of stress and burnout when they first start ensures that caregiving can still occur, but not at the expense of the caregiver’s personal holistic health.

Common signs of caregiver stress to look out for includes:

  1. Trouble sleeping
  2. Trouble focusing and maintaining current duties
  3. Feeling resentful and/or hopeless
  4. Feeling anxious, depressed or irritable
  5. Feeling exhausted and constantly tired even after resting
  6. Constant new health issues (eg. the flu) or an increase in the severity of current ones
  7. An increase in drinking, smoking or eating
  8. A decrease in personal hobbies and interests

Caregivers need to have their own lives where their needs are also met and they feel fulfilled and well rested. Caregiver burnout can happen when you’re either too busy or feel so discouraged and overwhelmed that you stop trying to look after yourself.

Delegating care responsibilities means that your loved one is still looked after, but there is now the time and energy to take care of your own wellbeing too.

As an aged care provider, at Scalabrini we aim to come alongside caregivers to provide customised care for those who require dementia care, palliative care and chronic and complex care. We understand that there is no one size fits all approach to aged care and that every individual is unique in their personality and their needs.

Contact Scalabrini today at 1800 722 522 or email us at enquiries@scalabrini.com.au to see how we can provide everything you value most when it comes to quality aged care and help you decide if aged care is right for you and your loved one.

Winter safety tips for seniors

5 winter safety tips for seniors and caregivers

After a challenging few months, we’re hopefully seeing an end to the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia. However, this doesn’t mean it’s time to stop being extra vigilant about our health. With winter upon us, it’s more important than ever to take care of ourselves and the people around us.

This is especially true of older Australians. Not only do seniors have reduced immune defenses against winter colds and flus, but there are other potential health risks caused by cold temperatures and slippery surfaces after rain.

The good news is, there are a few simple precautions you can take to keep yourself or your loved ones safe and healthy this winter. Check out these 5 winter safety tips for seniors and caregivers.

1. Rug up

It’s time to pull those winter woolies out of storage! As we age, the metabolic processes that regulate body temperature slow down. This means seniors have a much higher risk of getting hypothermia, even when the temperatures outside don’t feel freezing.

For this reason, it’s extremely important that older people layer up with warm clothes in winter. This means jumpers, scarves, beanies and possibly even warm base layers like long-johns depending on your local climate. For seniors with a reduced range of movement, you may want to consider velcro or snap button outer layers that are easy to take on or off as necessary.

Rugging up is just as important indoors as it is when spending time outside. In fact, a study in Victoria found that 87% of hospitalised elderly hypothermia cases were indoors when their symptoms arose.

If you are a caregiver, ensure the person in your care has plenty of warm blankets and a properly working indoors heating system. Generally, a mounted air conditioning system is safer than a space heater or fireplace, which can increase the risk of house fires and burns.

2. Injury-proof your surroundings

The risk of winter injuries is heightened in elderly people, who often have reduced balance and weaker bone and muscle strength. Falls can occur even when indoors, due to the reduced sensation in the legs and feet from the cold weather. 

If you or your loved one is spending time outdoors (even if it’s just to go the garden or mailbox), sturdy shoes with a strong grip are essential. This is particularly important for those who live in areas with snow or heavy rain in winter, as this can create slippery surfaces.

Inside the home, handrails (particularly in the bathroom or at the entryway to the home), clear pathways and strong lighting can help reduce the risk of a dangerous tumble.

3. Limit time spent outside

Now that self-isolation restrictions around COVID-19 have been loosened, it’s only natural that many seniors are eager to spend time outdoors in the cool, crisp air.

However, it’s still important that older people limit unnecessary outings — and only venture out if given the go-ahead from their doctor. 

While the incidence of new COVID-19 cases is currently low, the fact is they do still exist, and older people are at higher risk of fatalities from the virus. So, be smart and selective about your outings, and continue to stay away from large groups of people.  

For example, while having tea with a friend might be okay, a grocery shopping outing may be better replaced with an online delivery service.

Limiting unnecessary time spent outdoors in the colder months can also reduce the risk of falls, as well as other health conditions like winter colds or chest infections.

4. Take care against the flu

With so much talk around COVID-19, it’s easy to forget about the plethora of other winter colds and flus that go around at this time of year. While these are nowhere near as deadly as Coronavirus, they can still take a heavy toll on the health of the elderly.

If you haven’t already, consider getting your 2020 influenza shot and encouraging your loved ones to do so also. This will not only reduce the risk of getting the flu but can also reduce the severity and length of the symptoms.

Also be sure to continue washing your hands thoroughly and keeping clear of other people who are ill.

If you do find you’re exhibiting symptoms of the flu, be sure to get tested to rule out COVID-19. After all, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

5. Look after the body

It’s always important to treat your body well, but this is especially true in the colder months. The good news is, there are a few winter health tips for seniors that make it easy to do so.

Firstly, make sure you’re eating a diet filled with plenty of immune-boosting foods. Older people often have lower levels of vitamin C, which is essential for fighting infection.

The best food sources of this powerhouse vitamin include citrus fruits like oranges, mandarins, grapefruit and lemon. Garlic is also an illness-fighting superstar, thanks to its sulphur-containing compounds. Consider adding it to your meals for an extra immunity boost.

It’s also important to ensure you’re getting plenty of rest. By getting at least eight hours of quality sleep, you can help strengthen your body’s ability to fight off winter colds and flus. This can also help reduce the risk of falls or injuries, by keeping the brain sharp and awake!

This tip goes not only for elderly people, but for caregivers too — who can often find themselves exhausted or burnt out. By ensuring you’re taking good care of yourself, you can reduce your own risk of getting sick and potentially passing it on to the person you’re caring for.

Finally, seniors should make sure they’re drinking plenty of fluids. While it may sound surprising, seniors can actually have an increased risk of dehydration in winter. This is because the colder temperatures can reduce natural urges to drink water throughout the day, because it doesn’t feel hot.

To help keep the body of hydrated, make sure you or your older loved one is sipping plenty of water throughout the day. Also keep in mind that caffeinated beverages like coffee or black tea are diuretics, so they can make the body more dehydrated and don’t count towards liquid intake.

By following these 5 simple tips, you can help make sure you or your older loved one has a lovely and safe winter!

Brunette female holding her mobile phone, looking through the window and drinking coffee

Tips for Caregivers to Manage Stress

More Australians are reaching an advanced age, and the number of people who have dementia is also rising. In 2015, 49% of people with dementia lived in aged-care accommodation. However, this still leaves 51% of people living with dementia who are being cared for by friends and family members. People who are living with the diseases that cause dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy Bodies dementia, fronto-temporal dementia require a much greater amount of support and care compared to elderly people who don’t have these conditions.

While dementia can be hugely challenging for people who have been diagnosed, this also has a massive impact on the families and friends who look after them. Caregiver stress and burnout are common in people who are supporting  the elderly, particularly if that person is living with dementia.

Managing stress for caregivers is important, as it helps prevent burnout. You may be dealing with caregiver stress if you are experiencing any of the following:

  • You constantly feel worried and/or overwhelmed
  • You’re always tired
  • You’re sleeping too much or not enough
  • You’re easily angry or irritated
  • You’re losing or gaining weight
  • You’re no longer interested in the types of activities you used to enjoy
  • You’re often sad
  • You frequently have body pain or headaches
  • You find yourself using drugs, alcohol, or prescription medication to cope.

If any of the above sounds familiar, you may be experiencing caregiver stress. Here are some tips for caregivers of elderly people:

Use relaxation techniques

According to Mayo Clinic, there are a number of relaxation techniques which can help you slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, reduce chronic pain and muscle tension, and improve your mood and concentration. They can also help you get a better sleep and reduce some of the frustration and anger that caregivers can experience.

Autogenic relaxation is a good option if you’re having difficulty sleeping. That’s because it involves using both body awareness and visual imagery to reduce stress. You simply repeat suggestions or words to help you reduce muscle tension and relax.

Progressive muscle relaxation also works well, as you tense and relax each group of muscles, so you can become more aware of when you’re feeling tense and take immediate steps to relax.

Many people also use visualization, meditation, aromatherapy, massage, and mindfulness for relaxation and stress relief.

Stay connected

Caring for someone else can quickly take over your life- particularly if you also have a family and a job. It can be easy to become disconnected from friends and family as you spend most of your time supporting your loved one.

However, maintaining relationships with others is important. Make time to meet a friend for coffee, go out for dinner with your spouse, and let friends and family members know that you’d like to stay connected even when you’re busy.

Find social support

There are many different social groups available for carers, which means you can connect with people who have had some of the same experiences as you.

At Scalabrini we offer a Friendship Café where carers in the community get together once a month over a coffee. The groups can help you understand that your experiences and feelings are normal, and you can give and receive advice from people in similar situations as you- helping to reduce stress and anxiety. To find out more about this free service, please contact us on 1800 722 522.

Stay active

When we’re stressed and busy, exercise can often be the first thing to disappear from our schedules. But numerous studies have shown that exercise is an excellent way to manage stress, decrease overall levels of tension, improve sleep, stabilise and elevate moods, and improve self-esteem.

Exercising can also be valuable ‘You Time’, where you can block out the world for an hour and enjoy the endorphins that come with physical activity.

Visit your doctor regularly

Take time to get regular check-ups, and be aware of what your body is telling you. Pay attention to any exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness or changes in appetite or behaviour. Ignoring symptoms can cause your physical and mental health to decline.

Take a break

This is one of the caregiver tips you’ll need to pay the most attention to if you’re spending a lot of time looking after someone else. After all, there’s a reason why flight attendants tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first.

We all need time for ourselves, and this is especially true for carers, who spend most of their time thinking about the needs of others. Stress relief for caregivers often involves simply taking a break from it all.

Make arrangements for some respite so you can take a few days or even a week of vacation time. This will allow you to recharge and refresh, and you’ll likely be an even better carer once you’ve taken time to relax. When you’re away, make sure you read a good book, watch that movie you’ve been meaning to see, take a nap, and talk about different things. Contact My Aged Care 1800 200 422 for information on respite services in your area.

Approximately 72% of people who provide care for an aging loved one are doing this without any outside help. That’s why you need to enlist the help of other friends and family members, or even a professional caregiver so you can take a break and prevent stress and burnout.

Are you wondering if an aged care facility could be the right choice for your loved one? Get in touch today to learn about life at Scalabrini.

https://www.verywellmind.com/caregiver-support-caregivers-and-stress-relief-3144520

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-welfare/australias-welfare-2017-in-brief/contents/ageing-and-aged-care

https://www.agingcare.com/articles/stress-management-dementia-caregivers-155666.htm

https://dailycaring.com/12-dementia-care-tips-caregivers-wish-theyd-known-sooner/

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/caregiver-stress-and-burnout.htm