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Foster Resilience as a Caregiver

Fostering Caregiver Resilience

By Lisa M. Petsche

Although it has its rewards, caring for a chronically ill or frail older relative can be physically, psychologically, and emotionally demanding. One must learn how to foster resilience as a caregiver.

The caregiving journey is particularly challenging when it continues over a long period, especially when the elder has a progressive disease, complex needs, a demanding personality, or mental impairment.

Some caregivers seem to cope better than others with the ups and downs of providing care. The reasons can vary, but one of them has to do with resilience.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.”

Here are some strategies for fostering resilience and helping you cope with the ongoing stress and periodic crises involved in caring for someone with a chronic illness.

Accept the reality of your relative’s disease. Denial will prevent you from moving forward.

Learn as much as possible about the illness and its management, and educate family and friends to help them understand. Being informed is empowering.

Hope for the best possible outcome, but prepare for the worst-case scenario.

Pick your battles. Don’t make a major issue out of every concern.

Use positive self-talk. Emphasize phrases such as “I can,” “I will,” and “I choose.”

Do things that bring inner peace, such as meditating, reading, writing in a journal, or listening to music.

Create a relaxation room or corner in your home—a tranquil spot you can retreat to rejuvenate.

Develop a calming ritual to help you unwind at the end of the day.

Look after your health. Eat nutritious meals, get adequate rest, exercise, and see your primary physician regularly.

Stay connected to your friends and community groups to which you belong.

Minimize contact with people who drain your energy or make you feel inadequate.

Simplify your life. Set priorities and don’t waste time or energy on things that aren’t important.

Be flexible about plans and expectations. Recognize there will be good days and bad days and that how you and your relative feel will fluctuate. Take things one day at a time.

Allow yourself to feel all surface emotions, including resentment and frustration. Remind yourself you are doing your best and are only human.

Don’t keep feelings and problems to yourself. Talk to a trusted family member, friend, or counselor. Join a caregiver support group in your community, or an Internet group if it’s hard to get out.

Seek help from your primary physician or a counselor if you continually feel sad, angry, or overwhelmed. Depression is treatable.

Accept offers of help. Ask other family members to share the load and be specific about what is needed.

Find out about community support services­—including respite care options—and take full advantage of them. Information can be obtained from the local Area Agency on Aging office.

Don’t promise your relative you will never pursue placement in a long-term care home. It’s important to keep all options open because it’s impossible to know what the future holds in terms of your relative’s functioning and care needs and your own obligations and health status.

Do something nice for someone who is going through a difficult time. It will take your mind off your situation, boost your self-esteem, and strengthen the relationship. It may also help you be reminded that other people face challenges, too.

Look for ways to include laughter and joy in each day. This will enhance your relationship with your relative—and others with whom you contact—and help foster a positive outlook. MSN


Lisa M. Petsche is a social worker and a freelance writer specializing in boomer and senior health and wellness. She has personal experience with elder care.

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