10 Alzheimer’s Caregiver Stress Relief Tips
Caregiver stress relief – As a caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, I don’t need to tell you it is stressful. That’s like the understatement of the century, right? What I want to give you are 10 stress relief tips you can take action on today.
Caregiver Stress Relief Tip #1: Diet
What you eat is important to avoid highs and lows emotionally and physically. A low carb diet is most beneficial because it helps maintain blood sugar, and helps your body burn fat. While you don’t necessarily need to follow a Keto diet, which can be very restrictive, a “ketoish” diet (one that follows many of the keto principles) can be quite beneficial, not just for the caregiver but for the loved one they are caring for, as well.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol and salt as these can contribute to your overall mood and energy level. Moderation is key!
Add turmeric to your foods – turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant with many scientifically-proven health benefits, such as the potential to prevent heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Tip #2: Meditation &/Or Prayer
This caregiver stress relief tip allows you to take a break from stressful thoughts – on purpose. Our thoughts can really wear us down, and by taking a scheduled break from them daily is important to managing the stress you experience as a caregiver. The objective is to gain greater control over your own thoughts and this takes practice. There are five ways you can accomplish this, and these do not have to be segmented. You can combine them, depending on your spiritual beliefs.
Prayer – release (give) your stress to God as directed in the Bible.
Mindfulness Meditation – become a detached observer of your own thoughts
Transcendental Meditation – simply to allow yourself to stop thinking all together and to have a completely still mind
Guided Meditation – instruction from a recording to talk you through each step and to help bring you into a relaxed state. One of the best places to try out guided meditation is with the Headspace app, available for both iOS and Android.
Gratitude – focus on what’s good in your life and be thankful for those things. Creating an attitude of gratitude can help you through particularly difficult days when everything appears to be going wrong.
Tip #3: Breathe
This might seem a little elementary, but is actually very beneficial in releasing stress during difficult times. Abdominal breathing is what babies do, but as adults, we tend to forget how. Abdominal breathing allows for more air to fill your lungs, than chest breathing does.
Controlled, conscious breathing can help you revitalize and release stress quickly. Simply breathe in for 3 or 4 seconds, then breathe out for 3 – 4 seconds. Think of it as breathing in peace and exhaling all the stress.
Stress Relief Tip #4: Smile
Granted, there are probably days when you don’t feel like smiling. I get it. But this is not only beneficial for you as a caregiver, it also benefits your loved one, too. When we see someone smile or frown, this actually causes us to mimic that expression unconsciously. When I was a kid, my sister and I used to play this game, “if you laugh, you’re lying”. It was a silly game that had the entire purpose of trying to keep the other person from laughing. If someone else is laughing uncontrollably, it is really hard not to laugh.
Laugh – watch a funny movie or video clip. It can help to elevate your mood and release stress, too. There was a time we were all sitting in a restaurant and my young daughter, I think she was about 3 or 4 at the time started laughing uncontrollably. I don’t remember what tickled her, and I’m not sure if we ever knew, but I watched as the entire restaurant became engaged in her behavior. People were smiling and laughing along with her! It was contagious.
Try to find humor in as many places and situations as you can. Watching your loved one slip away is hard and can lead to depression for those caring for them. You can’t control it, but you can control how you handle it.
When my mom was in the mid-stage of Alzheimer’s, she had been talking on my cell phone with my sister. A few minutes later, she appeared in the living room where I was sitting with my youngest daughter. Mom had my cell phone in one hand and the remote control for the tv in the other. She exclaimed, “I can’t hear out of either one of these!”. It was all my daughter and I could do to keep from laughing. We didn’t want Mom to be embarrassed, but it was a hilarious situation, that we laughed about many times.
Smile even when you don’t feel like it. Yeah, I know. That sounds ridiculous, but it can really go a long way to elevating your mood and releasing stress. This is a caregiver stress relief tip you can do right now. Are you smiling?
Tip #5: Music
Music is a significant mood-changer and reliever of stress, working on many levels at once. Music has been found to reduce heart rates and promote higher body temperature – indicators of the onset of relaxation.
Choose music with a slow rhythm – slower than the natural heart beat which is about 72 beats per minute. Music that has repeating or cyclical pattern is found to be effective in most people.
If you need stimulation after a day of work, go for a faster music rather than slow calming music. Turn up the volume and DANCE!
When going gets tough, go for a music you are familiar with – such as a childhood favorite or favorite oldies. Familiarity often breeds calmness.
Music is personal. Everyone has a favorite genre and not all music has the same effect on everyone, so choose music that you enjoy, that makes you feel good. Some music can be connected with difficult times in the past and can dredge up negative feelings, so be sure to choose music that elevates your mood and makes you feel good.
Tip 6 Exercise
When we exercise it triggers the release of testosterone, growth hormone and serotonin and can drastically improve our mood while making us feel more alert and more physically capable. While going to the gym and doing a tough workout may come to mind, there are many ways to exercise that don’t involve going to the gym.
- Dance – put on some favorite music and move to it!
- Walk – take a brisk walk for 10 or 15 minutes.
- Jog – pick up the pace and release that stress.
- Stretch – stretch out your muscles with simple stretching exercises for 15 minutes.
You don’t have to do all of these, of course. Pick one or two that you like, and do one of them every day. Maybe your loved one will want to join you! The point is to move and get your heart rate up a bit and get those hormones released. Now this is a caregiver stress relief tip you can implement today!
Stress Relief Tip #7: Take a Break
As a caregiver, you work on a schedule. But the thing we find hardest to do is to schedule time for ourselves. I know – I struggled with that. I felt like I had to be “on call” 24/7. I’m also an independent type of person, so asking someone for help is really hard for me. I volunteered for the position of caregiver of my mom, so it somehow seemed wrong to ask for help from family or friends. It took me years (literally!) to take time for myself, away from my mom.
A dear friend of mine offered to sit with my mom so I could go bra shopping. It was exhilarating to have that couple hours to myself! When my sister made her annual visit, she always included me in whatever activity she wanted to do with our mom. We went to the zoo one time and Mom was walking with my sister. I turned around at one point and saw my sister walking with her husband. I asked her where’s mom? She said I don’t know. I eventually found her and realized that I was brought along as the caregiver.
The next year we went out, I insisted on a couple hours to myself when we got to our destination. That made it clear who was in charge of mom. Other years, I asked for the time to just stay home while my sister took mom out for the day.
Respite care is something that is offered by numerous facilities to help give caregivers a break. The Alzheimer’s Association offers vouchers to help with the expense. While I never used them, I probably should have. Mom went into respite care twice and both were done under Hospice care. Having 5 days to do whatever I wanted was like putting a kid in a candy store for me. I just want to encourage you to find a way to get respite care. It’s very beneficial even if it’s only for a day or two.
Ask family and friends to help you get a couple hours off each week. That will allow you time to get a manicure or pedicure or massage. This not only helps you, it can also help your loved one. They get to spend time with someone else, and can give them a new perspective, as well.
Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group
One of the things I wanted to do but never did was to join an Alzheimer’s caregiver support group. Meeting with others that are going through similar things as you can help you gain perspective, learn how to deal with the changes ahead, prepare for them, and establish new relationships on common ground. It also helps with feeling isolated – which can lead to depression.
Tip #8: Plenty Of Sleep
As a caregiver, stress relief is needed most at night when you lay down to go to sleep. Sleep is the time the body needs to rejuvenate and heal our body. Not getting enough of it leads to feeling exhaustion, mood swings and invites chronic illnesses.
I used to sleep with my door open, and since I slept lightly, I would wake up at the slightest change, like a light being turned on, or movement in the house. It’s silly to think you can be a night watchman while sleeping, but that’s kinda how I looked at it. Is it any wonder that I often felt exhausted?
Here are my tips to getting a good night’s sleep:
- Avoid stimulation for an hour before bedtime – turn off tv, as well as other devices.
- Establish a restful bedtime routine.
- Stick to a bedtime that will allow you to get at least 7 – 8 hours of sleep.
- Practice relaxation techniques prior to turning in.
Tip #9: Avoid Isolation
This caregiver stress relief tip is simple to implement. As a caregiver, I know it’s very easy to fall into the habit of not getting out and living your life. Your “excuse” may be like mine was: “I have responsibilities at home with mom that preclude me from getting out.” The problem is, isolation leads to more stress, because you don’t have anyone feeding your mind with new ideas and activities.
Caregiver Stress Relief Tip #10: Stop Watching The News
Controlling what you feed your mind with can help with not adding more stress to your life
That means, turn off the news. I have this theory about the news. It’s often depressing and can lead to anxiety and depression. Oftentimes, older folks spend hours watching the news. Is it any wonder they are grumpy? My dad had the news on all day long. I remember calling him out on it a few times. Now, he wasn’t always grumpy, but there were times when he was. I did notice he started turning off the tv, and going out onto the porch, or took a ride in the yard on his mobility chair.
Now, Dad did not have dementia or Alzheimer’s. His mind was sharp. His body was weak. But my point is the same. The news can make us feel like the world is falling apart and we are out of control. I don’t watch the news and I get weather updates on my computer and phone. I’m a happier person because of it!
Bonus Tip: Natural Remedies
I’m a huge advocate of natural remedies whenever possible to help with the changes our bodies go through as we age. Because of that, this caregiver stress tip is one of my favorites. Just so you know, I never recommend anything I don’t personally use, so please rest assured that these recommendations come from the heart, not the wallet. Yes, I will receive compensation should you purchase through my link, and that allows me to continue doing this podcast.
- Therapeutic Massage – locate a qualified massage therapist and let them know you need a massage to help you with stress. They’ll know what to do for you. Massage helps to release tense muscles and by doing so, it can release harmful toxins in your body, as well. Always drink plenty of water after a massage to aid in the process of releasing those toxins.
- CBD Oil – It’s all the rage now, and for good reason. There are 14 health benefits to cbd oil which includes relieving anxiety, stress and pain. It is legal in all 50 states, but finding the best cbd oil can be a bit confusing because not all cbd oils are the same. The one I recommend is the only one I take. It is the most potent cbd oil on the market today.
- HGH Gel – Human growth hormone is the thing that keeps us young and vital. Unfortunately, by the age of 25, our bodies don’t produce as much of it and by the age of 40, it really declines. This decline leads to all those signs of aging we hate; not sleeping well, wrinkles, lack of energy, graying hair, hair loss, aches and pains, mood swings, and the list goes on. With over 40 health benefits, I highly recommend this gel without hesitation. I sleep a whole lot better, I have a much more positive outlook on life, and I feel at least 10 years younger!
As an Alzheimer’s or dementia caregiver, stress relief is possible, and managing that stress can be done by incorporating the 10 tips I’ve provided for you today. It is my hope you feel at least encouraged that there are things you can do to manage your stressful circumstances, and will take action on at least some of them, if not all.
Be sure to check out my podcast: Alzheimer’s Caregiver Radio. Subscribe to be notified when new episodes are available.