5 Ways to Decrease Caregiving Worries

Hispanic woman comforting man in wheelchair
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 Life as a family caregiver can seem like one long series of worries:

What if my mom never gets any better?

What if my spouse doesn't realize how his declining health is impacting our family?

What if my health doesn't hold and I can't help my family?

What if my parents' money doesn't hold out? How can I pay for my kids' college and my parents' care at the same time?

What if…

What if….

1. Assemble a panel of experts.

If you are overwhelmed by any aspects of your loved one's care, it's possible that you are trying to wear too many hats and learn too many things in order to provide the best care possible.

If you are worried about your parents' finances or their dwindling resources in the face of their assisted living costs, can you enlist a trusted family friend who is knowledgeable about long term care planning? If your spouse needs help researching novel therapies for their metastatic cancer, a friend or family member who is a healthcare provider or is science minded and has access to online medical databases through their school affiliation might be able to do that research quicker than you can. If you find yourself mumbling "man, this is quite a learning curve" when dealing with any aspect of care, it might be time to call in some experts.

2. Strive to move beyond fire-fighting.

It's no easy task to move beyond dealing with the emergencies as they come up, but being proactive about planning possible next steps and anticipating possible problems can make a huge difference in your worry and stress levels.

Sometimes you can do this by talking to your loved one's healthcare provider or social worker about what you should expect next. If your loved one is very seriously ill and is receiving hospice care, you may find that the hospice personnel (or in some cases, palliative care) are especially equipped to help you with thinking about future difficulties.

3. Actively work on developing your ability to be "in the moment."

Although it might seem like being "in the moment" is the exact opposite of "striving to move beyond fire fighting" the truth is that the two are delicately intertwined. It's important to anticipate problems, do your best to deal with them, but then try and release them once you've done all the planning you can. Sometimes guided meditation or relaxation can be helpful in this regard, as can actually performing a physical act like writing your worries on a piece of paper and putting them in the "worry about this later" jar.

4. Prioritize sleep.

Winston Churchill allegedly said "fatigue makes cowards of us all" and although I wouldn't use the word "coward" to describe any caregivers I know, caregiving can be an uphill battle and caregiving on little sleep can be like an uphill battle up a mountain made of ice...wearing flip flops.  Learn what conditions keep you from sleeping (I know, I know, it may be worrying) and deal directly with those difficulties.

Have a family conference about everyone needing a bedtime, even the adults, including you, and then stick to that.

If you find yourself having trouble shutting down once you put yourself to bed, try cutting  down on screen time in the late evening as well as decreasing caffeine, especially after noon.

5. Get help.

If you've spent any time on this site, you've realized this a central tenet to our caregivers' advice. Reach out, build a caregiving team, ask for help. You can't do it alone, but you can work with the people who care about you. ​

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