Caregiving

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    As a caregiver, try to rethink frustrating situations and respond to them differently. The way you think can affect how you feel. A common negative thought pattern is personalizing. You take responsibility for a negative occurrence that is beyond your control. For example, you might blame yourself when the person in your care requires hospitalization or placement in a facility.

    A healthy adaptive response would be: “Mom’s condition has gotten to the point where I can no longer take care of her myself. It is her condition and not my shortcomings that require her to be in a nursing home.”
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    As a caregiver, try to rethink frustrating situations and respond to them differently. The way you think can affect how you feel. A common negative thought pattern is labeling. You identify yourself or other people with one characteristic or action. For example, you put off doing the laundry and think, “I'm lazy.”

    A healthy adaptive response would be: “I'm not lazy. Sometimes I don’t do as much as I could, but that doesn’t mean I'm lazy. I often work hard and do the best I can. Even I need a break sometimes.”
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    As a caregiver, try to rethink frustrating situations and respond to them differently. The way you think can affect how you feel. A common negative thought pattern is to make “should” statements. You try to motivate yourself using statements such as “I should call Mom more often.” or “I shouldn't go to a movie because Mom might need me.” What you think you “should” do is in conflict with what you want to do. You end up feeling guilty, depressed or frustrated.

    A healthy adaptive response would be: “I would like to go to a movie. It’s okay for me to take a break from caregiving and enjoy myself. I'll ask a friend or neighbor to check in on Mom.”
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    As a caregiver, try to rethink frustrating situations and respond to them differently. The way you think can affect how you feel. A common negative thought pattern is to jump to conclusions. You reach a conclusion without having all the facts. You might do this in two ways:
    • Mindreading: We assume others are thinking negative thoughts about us. For example, a friend doesn’t return a phone call, and we assume they're ignoring us or don’t want to talk to us. 

      A healthy adaptive response would be: “I don’t know what my friend is thinking. For all I know, she didn’t get the message. Maybe she's busy or just forgot. If I want to know what she's thinking, I'll have to ask her.”
       
    • Fortune­telling: You predict a negative outcome in the future. For example, you won't try adult day care because you assume the person in your care won't enjoy it. You think, “He'll never do that. Not a chance!”

      A healthy adaptive response would be: “I can't predict the future. I don’t think he's going to like it, but I won’t know for sure unless I try.”
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    As a caregiver, try to rethink frustrating situations and respond to them differently. The way you think can affect how you feel. A common negative thought pattern is to discount the positive. You overlook the good things about your circumstances and yourself. For example, you might not allow yourself to feel good about caregiving by thinking, “I could do more” or “anyone could do what I do.”

    A healthy adaptive response would be: “Caregiving is not easy. It takes courage, strength, and compassion to do what I do. I am not always perfect, but I do a lot and I am trying to be helpful.” 
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    As a caregiver, when you get frustrated, try to rethink the situation and respond to it differently. The way you think can affect how you feel. When you overgeneralize, you take one negative situation or characteristic and multiply it. For example, you're getting ready to take the person in your care to a doctor's appointment when you discover the car battery has died. You then conclude, “This always happens; something always goes wrong.”

    A healthy adaptive response would be: “This does not happen all the time. Usually my car is working just fine. At times, things don’t happen the way I would like, but sometimes they do.”
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    As a caregiver, if you feel frustrated, try thinking about  the situation differently to reduce your frustration. The way you think about things can affect how you feel. Below are six unhelpful thought patterns that are common for caregivers:
    • Overgeneralization: You take one negative situation or characteristic and multiply it.
    • Discounting the positive: You overlook the good things about your circumstances and yourself.
    • Jumping to conclusions: You reach a conclusion without having all the facts.
    • “Should” statements: What you think you “should” do is in conflict with what you want to do. You end up feeling guilty, depressed or frustrated.
    • Labeling: You identify yourself or other people with one characteristic or action.
    Personalizing: You take responsibility for a negative occurrence that is beyond your control.
    Unhelpful thought patterns are usually ingrained reactions or habits. To change your negative thoughts, you will have to learn to recognize them, know why they are false, and "talk back" to them.

    One way to do this is to practice the “triple­column technique.” Draw two lines down the center of a piece of paper to divide the paper into thirds. When you feel frustrated, take a personal “time out” and write your negative thoughts in the first column.

    In the second column, try to identify the type of unhelpful pattern from the six examples above. In the third column, "talk back" to your negative thoughts with a more positive point of view. 
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    As a caregiver, when you notice the warning signs of frustration, you can react by doing an immediate activity to help you calm down. This gives you time to look at the situation more objectively and to choose to respond in a more controlled way.

    When you feel yourself becoming frustrated, try slowly counting from one to 10 and taking a few deep breaths. If you're able, take a brief walk or go to another room and collect your thoughts. It's better to leave the situation, even for a moment, than to lose control or react in a way you'll regret. If you think someone may be offended when you leave the room, tell them you need to go to the restroom. You can also try calling a friend, praying, meditating, singing, listening to music or taking a bath. Try experimenting with different responses to find out what works best for you and the person you care for.

    Practicing relaxation techniques regularly can help you prepare ahead of time for frustration. If possible, try the following relaxation exercise for at least 10 minutes each day:

    Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet place. Take slow, deep breaths and relax the tension in your body. While you continue to take slow, deep breaths, you may want to imagine a safe and restful place. You can also repeat a calming word or phrase.
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    Frustration is a normal, valid emotional response to many of the challenges of being a caregiver. If you can recognize the warning signs of frustration, you can take steps to adjust your mood before you lose control. Some common warning signs of caregiver frustration include:
    • shortness of breath
    • knot in the throat
    • stomach cramps
    • chest pains
    • headache
    • compulsive eating
    • excess alcohol consumption
    • increased smoking
    • lack of patience
    • urge to strike out
    You can't take on all the responsibilities of caregiving by yourself. It's critical to ask for and accept help. Discuss your needs with family members and friends who might be willing to share caregiving responsibilities. People will not realize you need help if you don't explain your situation and ask for support. Remember, you have the right to ask for help and express your needs.
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    Frustration is a normal, valid emotional response to many of the challenges of being a caregiver. While some irritation may be part of everyday life as a caregiver, extreme frustration can negatively affect your physical health, or cause you to be physically or verbally aggressive towards your loved one. If your caregiving situation is causing you extreme frustration or anger, you may want to explore some new techniques for coping.

    When you're frustrated, it's important to understand what is and what isn't within your power to change. When dealing with an uncontrollable circumstance, you do control one thing: how you respond to that circumstance. To respond without extreme frustration, you will need to learn to:
    • Recognize the warnings signs of frustration
    • Take steps to calm yourself down physically
    • Change your thoughts in a way that lowers your stress
    • Communicate assertively
    • Ask for help