Dementia Caregiver Stresses and How to Handle Them
Being a dementia caregiver is difficult, and feeling frustrated from time to time is a natural response.
It’s okay to feel frustrated.
But allowing the occasional frustration to build up to extreme frustration can create a negative impact on you or the person you’re caring for.
When your frustration gets bad enough, it can affect your physical health, making it even harder to care for your loved one. It can also cause you to lose patience and become verbally aggressive toward your loved one.
Caring on in a frustrating environment won’t benefit you or the person you’re taking care of. If you find yourself getting frustrated a lot, you may want to explore some methods to help you relax.
What You Need to Understand About Your Frustration
As a caregiver, you have to recognize there are things you can’t control that frustrate you.
For example, people with dementia may ask the same questions over and over again or wander aimlessly around the house. This kind of behavior can be frustrating to handle, but they are uncontrollable behaviors for people with dementia.
In other words, there’s very little you can do to change them.
A lot of frustration arises when people try to change situations they don’t have any control over. These types of behaviors are some of those situations.
You cannot change the behavior of someone suffering from dementia.
So What Can I Do?
The only way to change an uncontrollable situation is to control how you respond to it.
Your response to these behaviors is the only thing you can control, and controlling your response can reduce the amount of frustration you’re feeling.
The next time you find yourself getting frustrated, change how you respond to the situation rather than trying to change the situation itself.
Warning Signs You’re Getting Frustrated
Sometimes it’s hard to recognize our feelings of frustration. But if you don’t know you’re getting frustrated, you won’t be able to change how you’re responding.
Recognizing the early signs of frustration will help you take control of your feelings before you get too upset.
Here are a few signs to keep an eye out for:
- No patience
- Wanting to yell or strike out
- Cramps in your stomach
- Unexplained headaches
- Shortness of breath
- You feel a knot in your throat
- Pain in your chest
- Compulsive eating
- Smoking or drinking alcohol more often than usual
If you experience any of these warning signs, you may be getting frustrated. As soon as you notice your frustration, you should take steps to calm yourself back down.
What to Do About Your Frustration
Once you become aware of your frustration, there are several things you can do to control those feelings and stay calm.
These methods include calming yourself down physically, changing your thoughts to reduce your stress, change the way you communicate, and learn how to ask for help.
Each of these things might sound simple, but they’ll greatly help you control your frustration.
1. How to Calm Yourself Down
Calming yourself down with an activity gives you the ability to look back at the situation from an objective viewpoint. When you see it from this angle, you’ll be able to choose a better way to respond to it.
One of the best things to do when you find yourself getting frustrated is to count to 10. Make sure you take deep breathes while you count.
If you can leave the situation (going into another room for a moment), you should. It’s always better to separate yourself from the situation than to let your frustration keep building.
This will give you the chance to collect your thoughts.
Spend Time Relaxing
It might also help to spend some time de-stressing. Find something you find relaxing and spend at least 10 minutes doing that thing every day.
If you aren’t sure what you find relaxing, try sitting in a quiet location, close your eyes, and taking deep breaths. Let all the tension flow out of your body and imagine a calming place or word.
This will help you prepare for those frustrating moments in the future.
2. How to Change Your Thoughts to Deal with Stress
Once you’ve removed yourself from the situation and calmed down, you should rethink the stressful situation in different ways.
The way you think affects the way you feel. And while frustration is a natural feeling in stressful situations, you may become aware of negative thinking that encourages that frustration.
Do your best to look at the situation objectively. When you do this, you’ll find a better way to deal with it.
3. How to Communicate Efficiently
Effective communication lets you express how you’re feeling and help others understand your needs. To communicate efficiently, you must be assertive.
But being assertive isn’t the same thing as being aggressive.
Aggressive communication forces your needs onto other people. You can tell if you’re being aggressive if the person you’re talking to gets defensive.
You shouldn’t communicate passively either. Though this may seem easier (because you’re keeping your needs and feelings to yourself), it might give others the feeling they can push you around. Being passive doesn’t let you avoid conflict.
Assertive communication lets you share your needs while still being respectful.
4. How to Ask for Help
Remember, being a caregiver is a big, difficult job, and you can’t do it all on your own. But no one will know you need help if you don’t ask for it (or let people help you).
Part of taking care of a loved one with dementia is taking care of yourself, and to do that, you may need some help.
So learn how to say “Yes.”
If someone offers their help, let them help. Don’t say “Maybe.” Waiting will only make you search for help later after you get overwhelmed.
Part of learning how to say “Yes” is also learning how to say “No.” If you need a break, it’s okay to let your immediate family know. Don’t stretch yourself too thin trying to meet their needs or demands as well.
Learn How to Manage Dementia Caregiver Stress
One of the most important rules of being a dementia caregiver is remembering to take care of yourself. If you get overwhelmed or frustrated, you won’t be able to give your loved one the care they need. So give yourself time to relax, and ask for help whenever you need it.
Finding it hard to be a caregiver on your own? It may be time to get some additional help. Take a look at our services and find out how we can help you.