Not for the Faint of Heart

Caregiver Stress Relief

Caregivers are Warriors

Caregiving is not for the faint of heart.  If you are a caregiver, you are a warrior.  Everyday, you are battling a myriad of opposition coming at you from multiple directions.

From the time you wake, you are warring with your thoughts that say, “I wish I could just stay in bed today and sit this one out.”

As daily events unfold, you battle emotional breakdowns, messes, life challenges and frustrating circumstances.  When it is time for bed, your battle rages in your mind, “What could I have done differently today?  How am I going to get through tomorrow?”

Stress, chaos, and medication too-

Most of the caregivers I encountered manage their loved one’s medicines as well as their own. The reason is simple.  Caregivers need their own sets of prescriptions to get them through daily chaos (arthritis medicine, anti-depressants, sleep medications, stomach elixirs, heart medications, blood pressure medicine, and other prescriptions).

Throughout this blog, you will see posts advocating support groups, counseling, and physical help for the caregiver.  The blog, however, is for the moments when you do not have your counselor sitting next to you.  This was created for the other 29 days of the month when you do not have a support group meeting.

Please do not ever let an online group keep you from the professional help only your physicians can provide.  Always seek your physician’s help first.

Coping-

Now, we will turn our attention to a very helpful topic.  The idea of humor for the caregiver is not a new one on this blog.  Please click here or here to read other posts about laughter.

Humor is a topic that was brought up in my most recent prayer call.  The facilitator was telling the participants how she felt like it was time to stop mourning because it was time to start laughing.

Coping Humor

“Coping humor” is an acquired ability that aids in distancing you from your troubles.  We have already talked about the long-term benefits of laughter.   We have also discussed reframing our thought processes about dreaded events.

Humor can defuse insults, counteract the humiliation of the event, and even soothe aching muscles.  (To read a post with tips for headaches, click here.  Or, to read about using essential oils for migraines, click here.)

Making Light

In the dark chaos of caregiving, sometimes there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.  During those trying times, it is up to you to “make light”.  Making light of a situation in no way implies running someone down or belittling a person.  Rather, it means to make light where there is darkness.

For instance, last night my husband wearily asked how I could make light of a certain situation caused by my dog.  He was referencing my dearly departed Afghan Hound, Darla, who has been dead for three years.  The circumstance he pointed to happened about nine years ago.  My only reply was, “It was something I could easily fix and I was trying to keep other people from being down about what happened.”  In times like those, it did help to laugh and keep going.

More funny stories from Darla-

My husband may never agree with me about that particular incident.  However, the Afghan Hound did provide many other stories my husband loves to share.  For instance, one week she ate almost $20 worth of meat by stealing what she wanted from our kitchen.

The first day, I came into the kitchen to check on my pot roast that I had left cooling on the stove top. What I discovered was a large pot full of potatoes, carrots, and celery, but no roast.  The roast was MIA, the dog was sleeping in the same position on the couch as when I left her, and there was no trace of spilled juice from the pot.  (I could only assume our cat came behind the dog and licked up whatever juice had been displaced to the floor.)

On day two, I tried a different approach to keeping dinner warm.  After grilling a few pounds of sausage, I put them in the cold oven and closed the door.  Knowing the meat would be secure, I headed upstairs. When I came back down the over door was still shut, making me feel victorious in thwarting whatever attempts Darla may have tried.  What I did not realize was that Darla had not only opened the oven door and taken some of the sausage, but she had closed the door back as well.  I tried to keep my composure while explaining to my husband the reason we would be eating pizza for dinner two days in a row.

worn thin

Something like dinner being cooked, and then stolen, two days in a row would send most caregivers over the edge.  Caregiver’s nerves are worn completely thin.  They only have so much energy to go to the store and prepare meals.  Having dinner plans derailed, would send a weary caregiver into a tailspin.

Admittedly my household was not completely thrilled over losing home cooked meals back-to-back.  At the time all I could think to say was, “We are going to laugh about this one day, so we might as well start laughing now.”

Other caregivers, reading my silly dog stories, would think losing $20 worth of food pales in comparison to cleaning adult diapers, unclogging perpetually clogged toilets, listening to someone with Dementia holler all day, lying next to someone with MS as they scream in pain throughout the night, answering the same question over and over, or wondering how to pay for much needed medication on a fixed budget.  Yes, caregivers have much bigger issues to worry about than a simple doggie theft.  And, no, the issues caregivers deal with are nothing to laugh about.

final tip

Before we finish this post, let’s discuss another way to find simple joy amidst agonizing emotional pain.  After incorporating exercise and consulting your doctor, nutritionist, counselor, and support group, try this next simple tip.

Since most caregivers cannot afford glamorous vacations to exotic destinations, we are going to build on a concept discussed in part one of Loneliness and in the post about Winterizing.

Today let’s think about redecorating our homes with laughter.  You may look at this figuratively or you may literally add little points of laughter all over your home.

Adding on:

One lady has said she has an entire joy room.  She has filled one room of her house with things that make her smile, so when she is down she can walk into that room and be uplifted.  Doesn’t that sound delightful?

If you do not have an entire room, then consider adding little collections of your favorite items throughout your home.  Some caregivers cannot have mementos, due to their loved ones stealing items or misplacing them.  In that case, get creative with your hiding spots.

Do not feel overwhelmed, since you probably do not have much free time.  Consider little things you may do to lighten the mood.

For instance, you could take some of your favorite sayings and tape them inside your kitchen cabinets where no one will see them.  Every time you go to purée a meal, for the person you are caring for, you can open your cabinet and read your uplifting thoughts while grinding food.  Or, perhaps, you need to remove something that makes you unhappy.  Is there a picture that makes you sad to look at or is there an off-limits heirloom your loved one tends to play with?  Consider putting those items out of sight for a while.

Subtracting:

I once had a beautiful Wrought Iron table, with a glass top, that was given to me by my great-grandparents.  It was special because I remembered playing hours of card games with them, at that very table.  When it was brought into my current home, we had a twelve year old who loved to spin in the circular chairs until the chairs banged into the glass table.  After many months of prolonged asking for the banging to stop, I tried applying felt to the edges of the chairs.  The felt only lasted a little while before the banging took over again.  Finally, I picked up the heavy table, walked it up two flights of stairs, and then somehow managed to single-handily get the table through the tiny drop-down attic opening.  The table is safe now and I do not have to listen to banging while I prepare meals and wash dishes.

Your Turn:

I would love to hear what you collect, the things that bring you joy, and how you plan to decorate your home with joy.  Please use the comment section to tell other caregivers about what brings you joy.  As you read past posts, make sure to read the comments at the bottom.  We have some cute jokes from some of our readers, as well as helpful hints that readers have provided.

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