Caring for the At-Home Caregiver
Let’s face it…care giving is physically and emotionally draining.
If you are your loved one’s sole caregiver, their well-being depends entirely on you.
And there is no break from the relentless schedule of giving care. No one comes in at 11 p.m. and relieves you because you just pulled a double shift.
Excessive hours per day giving care, social isolation, depression, lack of choice in becoming a caregiver and financial stress are the realities an at-home caregiver faces every day. A full-time caregiver must give up her livelihood if she works outside the home. Friendships and social activities are lost.
Negative impact of care giving is the norm among caregivers due to extensive demands of care giving and limited resources. Despair and loneliness are constant companions
Once vibrant, social, fun-loving individuals are quickly put in a role that demands their full attention and provides them little if any fulfilment. Productive outgoing people are now depressed. The more serious their loved one’s prognosis, the more depressed they become. Those looking at long-term / life-long commitments to their new role of at-home caregiver are most susceptible to severe depression.
Of the 70 million unpaid family member caregivers in the United States, most are women. Only 12 million women report clinical depression each year, while millions more remain silent. Often, those caregivers suffering from depression fail to realize they are severely depressed. Others are embarrassed and choose not to discuss the fact with anyone. The usual treatment includes talking to a trained professional and taking anti-depressant drugs which does not fit into the schedule of the at-home caregiver.
But what about the millions of women and men who will never seek professional help…
Are you one of them?
Loss of Sleep: Impact on Overall Health and Depression
Deep restful sleep allows the body to rebuild and repair itself. Quality sleep is essential to maintaining health in the present and in the future. Age-related diseases have a direct link to earlier years of poor sleeping. Correlation between sleep deprivation and depression exists and most home caregivers are chronically sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation is simply a given for every at-home caregiver. Your patient needs you no matter time of day or night.
If you are taking any prescription drugs, check and see that the drug does not cause depression. If possible, wean yourself from prescription drugs and use safe and effective natural substances instead. Depression is dangerous and so are the drugs prescribed to “manage” depression.
Studies show portions of the brain shrink after about 3 years of suffering from depression. The hippocampus is the portion of the brain that 1) creates the “feel good” chemical serotonin and 2) creates new memories. The hippocampus is severely shrunken in Alzheimer’s causing extreme memory problems. This is a road you do not want to find yourself on.
Another study shows the link between sleep deprivation and the deveopment of Alzheimer’s.
Shocklingly, the American Medical Association (AMA) was surprised by the results of a sponsored-study of at-home caregivers and how sad, depressed, isolated, and alone they feel. It is likely that your patient’s doctor is also clueless about how you are suffering and this person has interacted with you one on one.
Even family and close friends cannot understand the grief and pain you experience with every breath you take. When their visit or phone call ends, you slip back into your desperation.
If your patient’s prognosis is a long, drawn out existence, perhaps dementia, or worse, your despair is unbearable…
What We Already Knew…
“The Coalition To Transform Advanced Care and the Cigna Foundation commissioned a research group to complete a “digital ethnography” of caregivers needs and challenges as well as identify where these individuals seek support and advice. Researchers examined 6,700 conversations from family caregiver websites, blogs, social networks, and news sites over a two-year period.
“What was surprising was the emotional conflict and overarching despair and depression and grief that caregivers felt,” said Christina Stasiuk, DO, the national medical director for the Cigna Foundation, who spent 14 years in solo practice as an internist before assuming her current role.
“[T]hese caregivers didn’t feel valued and they didn’t feel important,” she added.
Looking at the language of the comments gave researchers insights into caregivers’ state of mind.
The study noted that “digital forums are [caregivers’] window to the world where they vent out, share their experiences and seek caregiving advice.” Some examples:
“I spend a lot of [of] time crying and just wishing this would just end and then feeling guilty, because I think that.”
“Caregiving 24/7 has really taken a toll on me. I will probably have a heart attack or stroke and go before he does.”
“I tried to convince him to go back to the hospital so I could get some respite. He absolutely refuses. Now I am exhausted and I feel guilty.”
Notably about half of caregivers are unable to work and most report damage to their financial well-being, a summary of the study reported. On top of having to reduce work hours, many caregivers are also responsible for co-pays, Stasiuk told MedPage Today.”
Two Methods To Help TODAY
As soon as you can, try these 2 methods to alleviate a bit of your despair. Repeat a few times during your day, at night before you drift off to sleep, and first thing in the morning when you wake up. You should notice a difference. And write down what you felt during and after you complete your practice. Keep your notes in a binder where you can review them at the end of each week. You deserve to feel better, so please try.
Method 1 — Breathing
You would think that breathing comes naturally to humans. After all, we can only survive a few minutes without taking a breath. Unfortunately, as adults (and especially as stressed out caregivers) we forgot what we once knew.
Watch an infant sleeping and you will see with every breath she takes her belly expands. She fills her lungs first and then continues to draw breath using her diaphragm properly to take in the maximum amount of air.
As adults we take shallow breaths that only partially fill our lungs. Deep breathing is a natural relaxation technique you can practice throughout your day. Here is what to do:
Either standing tall, sitting tall in a chair, or laying down, place one hand on your belly. Draw in a breath through your nose with a count to 4…fill your lungs and keep breathing in until you feel your belly expand with air. Hold your breath for a 4-count. Release your breath through your mouth while gently pressing on your belly to expel all the air on a 4-count. Repeat 3 times each time you do the exercise.
Repeat the exercise at least once every morning as soon as you wake up, mid-day, and night before drifting off to sleep.
Why this works: Your brain functions better in an oxygen-rich environment. You will clear brain fog the more you practice. You are sending a powerful signal to your amygdala (your fight or flight center in the brain) that all is well. This has a calming effect for your entire body and a calm body will ease your depression.
Method 2 — Let Your Thoughts Be
This awareness exercise trains your brain that negative emotions and thoughts are normal. Instead of reacting to them and increasing your despair, you will simply acknowledge the thought or emotion from a third person perspective by asking a simple “why” question.
Here is an example. In this example your name is Jane.
When you feel fear about the uncertainty of your future, and you get that gripping feeling in your stomach, say to yourself (either internally or out loud) “Why is Jane thinking about her uncertain future?”
What you are doing is acknowledging the thought without judgement or trying to change it. This diffuses and diminishes its power over you. Questioning the thought in a matter-of-fact manner as a person watching you would removes all of the emotion from the thought.
Do this EVERY TIME you have a thought that causes you distress. You will soon feel relief from these thoughts because you realize they have no power or influence over you.
Keep reading for more ideas on how to calm those nagging thoughts…
Get some fresh air and sunshine on your face. Soak in the sights and sounds around you.
LISTEN: Even if you live in a big city, listen for the chirp or warble of a bird, hear the breeze rustle through the leaves of a tree, listen to the buzz of the bees as they gather pollen from flowers.
LOOK: Up at the sky. What color blue (or grey) is the sky? Are there any clouds? What does a cloud look like? Look at the earth around you. Are there plants, trees, grass, or flowers to admire? What about an interesting structure nearby, or a child’s toy, or an old car with an interesting grill. Be curious about your surroundings.
LAUGH: Find the humor in ordinary things. Laughter IS the best medicine. Have a favorite sit-com that made you laugh? Find it online and watch again. Like kittens or puppies? Search Facebook and Instagram for what you like and soon thousands of images will fill your computer screen. Re-enforce the laughter habit at least once a day.
Yoga For Body And Mind
Start a Yoga practice. Yoga is a great way to tone your body and mind at the same time. You will feel and look better. No special equipment required and you don’t have to go to the gym. YogaWorks has over 800 carefully curated classes available for beginners to advanced yoga practitioners. Classes range from 5 minutes to 90 minutes. Available 24/7 to meet your schedule. Stream to your phone, tablet, laptop, TV.
The power of mindless computer games can shift focus away from negavtive thoughts. While playing computer games, you are able to forget about your caregiver duties as proven in a study at the University of California, Berkeley.
If you have a smartphone or tablet, you can partake anywhere. If you only have a desktop computer, don’t fret, you can still get the same benefit, you just have to be tethered to your desk.
Playing video games can shut down beta brainwaves and slow your brain into alpha waves or slower yet into theta brainwaves. This is what meditation does as well. Too much beta activity kills problem solving. When you are stressed, you are emitting high level beta waves.
Alpha brainwaves create positive, stable and balanced emotions and allow you to deal better with stress. Alpha brainwaves boost immune system functions while cortisol and adrenaline production shut down. Alpha brainwaves also increase serotonin (the neurotransmitter that impacts mood) production.
So go ahead and download as many games as you like…they are free for you to use. If you don’t like one, simply delete it from your phone or tablet.
Brainwave Entrainment (BWE)
Sounds a little intense…what is brainwave entrainment, anyway?
Disclaimer first: BWE is consider safe to use if you are over 26 years old (the brain is still developing up to this point), not pregnant and not subject to seizures or epilepsy.
If you are not familiar with brainwave entrainment, it is a process to align brwinwaves into one frequency. The brain produces electrical activity that creates “waves” or oscillations in the brain. While functioning normally, the brain creates different wave lengths in different areas of the brain at the same time.
Brainwave entrainment tunes the brain to one frequency.
The 5 brainwaves the are most recognized are listed below in the order of fastest to slowest;
Gamma — extreme gratitude and bliss
Beta — wide awake
Alpha — calm, relaxed, daydreaming state
Theta — very relaxed, high learning state
Delta — deep sleep
Depression is expressed in the beta state.
Those accomplished in meditation can reach alpha or theta states easily. For the rest of us who do not want to wait dozens of years of daily long practice, we can reach the same state of mind with zero effort by putting on a pair of headphones, closing our eyes and chilling out while listening to a brainwave entrainment audio.
The benefit to someone who is deeply depressed can be immediate and profound. The more you use BWE, the stronger the benefit becomes. There are numerous programs on the market. Most have a demo track you can listen to before you buy.
Consider a different approach using a program that can help you overcome depression and create positive effects in your life. This is a science-based program that is just beginning to take North America by storm.
Your Healing Hands
Dr. Oz, Oprah Winfrey Show says “Energy medicine is the future of all medicine.”
If you are not familiar with the “Energy” Dr. Oz is talking about, here is a brief summary:
There is a flow of Energy that maintains all life forces and creates optimal wellness in the body. This Energy is known by many names: Life Force Energy, “chi” in Chinese and “prana” in Sanskrit to name a few.
The Quantum Touch program teaches how to focus and direct this Energy with amazing results. The body’s capacity to heal itself is unlimited. With so many examples of people walking away from certain-death diseases, medical science cannot explain how any of these miraculous healing occur. There is obviously a higher Energy at work here.
You can quickly learn how to use this amazing tool for yourself, your family, friends, and your patient by learning in front of your computer and then practicing the techniques on yourself or your patient. Here is where to learn all about Quantum Touch.