07: Caregiver Stress: Coping Strategies

This program will discuss:

  • Strategies for managing stress
  • Informal and formal support systems
  • There are no easy answer when its comes to the care of another
  • Our hope is to offer you useful information and guidelines for caring for someone with dementia
  • These guidelines will need to be adjusted to suit your own individual needs

Chronic or unresolved stress impacts the mind and body Chronic Stress Increases the Risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Strokes
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Digestive problems
  • Physical illnesses
  • Sleep problems
  • Low sex drive
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Memory loss
  • Earlier death
  • Identify your stressors, then find stressor solutions
  • Preventive approach
  • Reduce the effects of stress
  • Relaxation techniques

External vs. Internal Stressors External stressors are things that happen to you

  • Caregiving activities
  • Unpredictable events and behaviors
  • Family situations
  • Work-related situations
  • Social situations
  • Environmental factors
  • Financial concerns
  • If you cannot control the external stressor, you can control how much you let the stressor affect you
  • Those thoughts and feelings that cause stress or increase the degree of perceived stress
  • Attitude
  • Having a positive attitude and a sense of humor can help decrease your perception of stress
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Set realistic expectations to avoid disappointment and frustrations
  • Uncertainty and fears
  • Learn about Alzheimer’s disease and try to plan for the future as much as possible
  • Talk to people you trust about your fears
  • Keeping the effects of stress under control
  • Active coping strategies
  • Emotion or relationship-focused coping strategies
  • Cognitive or educational coping strategies
  • Spiritual-focused coping strategies
  • Strategies people use when they are “doing” things that help them
  • Asking and planning for support and assistance is a positive approach to stressful situations
  • Having optimism, compassion, and empathy
  • Reframing: viewing a negative situation in new and more positive way
  • Daydreaming: trying to see a difficult situation in a better light
  • Learning new information or new skills
  • Learning about Alzheimer’s disease and caregiving
  • Knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease and caregiving can help you feel more confident as a caregiver and better manage your stress
  • Prayer
  • Meditation
  • Spiritualism
  • Professional pastoral counseling

Spiritual-Focused Coping can Help with:

  • Personal growth
  • Acceptance of loss
  • Find meaning in the experience
  • Find strength through spirituality
  • Use multiple coping strategies
  • Trying new coping strategies
  • Continuing to practice old ones
  • Daily Pleasant Activities
  • Increasing daily “joyful” activities will reduce daily stress
  • Exercise
  • Hobbies
  • Relaxing
  • Laughing
  • Socializing
  • Talking on the phone
  • Participating in clubs
  • Gardening
  • Music
  • Attending concerts
  • Attending church
  • Praying
  • Reading
  • Writing in a journal
  • Watching movies
  • Shopping
  • Playing cards
  • Visiting family
  • Enjoying pets/animals
  • Identify activities
  • Increase the frequency
  • Add an extra joyful activity to your day
  • Expand the time of an activity
  • Find activities you can enjoy together
  • Remind yourself of how extraordinary and special you are
  • Focus on the good things in your life and the positive things that happen every day
  • Replace negative thoughts with positive ones
  • Take note of how important you are
  • Focusing on the positive aspects of caregiving can be a powerful coping strategy
  • Can help reframe a difficult situation
  • Take time every day to remind yourself of the benefits of your caregiving to you and your care recipient
  • Provides a purpose for your life
  • Develops character and personal growth
  • Improves self-esteem
  • Creates personal satisfaction
  • Makes you feel appreciated
  • Gives you comfort knowing that someone benefits from your assistance and care
  • Leads to spiritual rewards
  • Help you relax mentally and physically

Relaxation techniques have numerous benefits:

  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Slowing the heart rate and breathing rate
  • Relaxing tense muscles
  • Improving headaches
  • Reducing negative thoughts
  • Improving concentration
  • Refreshing the body and mind
  • Focus your mind on something calming
  • Increase awareness of your body
  • Find a quiet place without distractions
  • Assume a comfortable resting position
  • Deep breathing
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Relax tense muscles, slow down your heart rate and breathing, reduce negative thoughts and effects of stress
  • Exercises are best performed in a sitting position, but if you are standing and you feel light-headed or dizzy, sit or lie down to prevent a fall

Steps in the Deep Breathing Exercise 1.Inhaling deeply 2.Holding the breath 3.Exhaling the breath

  • Practice your deep breathing exercise at least twice a day
  • A common way to start is with your foot, working your way up to your neck and head
  • Tense the muscles in your right foot for 5 to 8 seconds and then relax for 15-30 seconds, and repeat
  • Then tense the muscles in your right lower leg and foot for two cycles
  • Then do two cycles of tensing-relaxing with your entire right leg
  • Next, do two cycles of tension-relaxation with your left foot, then lower leg and foot, and then entire left limb
  • Complete this cycle with your right arm, then left arm, then stomach, then chest, then neck and shoulders, and then the face
  • A shorter version of this involves tensing and relaxing a group of muscles two cycles each
  • Lower limbs (feet and legs)
  • Abdomen and chest
  • Hands, arms, shoulders, neck
  • Face
  • Visualization or guided imagery
  • Close your eyes and imagine a peaceful setting
  • Meditation
  • Select a focus point
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi
  • Massage
  • Aromatherapy
  • Music therapy

Once you learn a technique, you should practice it at least once a day and whenever you feel stressed

  • Get regular exercise to manage stress, improve energy and mood
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat healthy
  • Get regular medical care for yourself
  • Informal support and formal support systems
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Clubs and organization
  • Church members
  • Volunteers

Informal Support can Help with:

    • Housework, Cooking or sharing meals, Errands, Shopping, Visiting, Daily care, Respite Care, Comfort, Advice, Companionship
      • Caregiving and skills training programs and information resources
      • Professional counseling
      • Respite care
      • Support groups
      • Religious or faith-based programs
      • Set priorities
      • Use a planner
      • Organize the environment
      • Write about your experiences and daily accomplishments
      • Include at least one positive aspect of caregiving every day
      • Keep a list of your daily stressors
      • Rate the stress
      • Note the solutions you tried
      • How you coped
      • Track successful solutions and coping techniques

If your symptoms of stress are chronic, unbearable, or overwhelming, or you have symptoms of depression, consult a healthcare professional, counselor, or therapist

Identify your stressors and try to find solutions to them

      • Four categories of coping strategies are:

1.Active coping strategies 2.Emotion or relationship-focused coping strategies 3.Cognitive or educational coping strategies 4.Spiritual-focused coping strategies

      • Coping techniques include:
      • Daily joyful activities
      • Positive self talk
      • Benefits of caregiving
      • Exercise
      • Attending to one’s health
      • Informal and formal social support systems
      • Being organized
      • Maintaining a caregiver journal
      • Professional help
      • Relaxation techniques

Written by:
Catherine M. Harris, PhD, RNCS.
Mindy J. Kim-Miller, MD, PhD

Edited by:
Sasha Asdourian


06: Caregiver Stress: Detecting Stress, Burden & D

Select the best answers from the list of choices following each question.

Click here to open Certificate of Completion
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