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Fighting Caregiver Fatigue
By Kristine Dwyer, Staff Writer

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Fortunately, there are many things that can help to decrease weariness and promote a good night’s sleep:

  • Regular exercise can have a positive effect on improving sleeping habits as well as decreasing stress, depression and anxiety.

  • Try to maintain a daily routine for naps and sleep so that the body can adjust to a rhythmic pattern.

  • Listen to positive sounds to promote relaxation before sleep. Music or nature sounds, such as waves, can be soothing to the soul. Avoid watching stimulating television shows right before bed as this may bring alarming news that unsettles our mood and disrupts our ability to rest

  • Meditation, prayer, and deep breathing exercises are also options to use for calming our minds and bodies so that we can sleep. These can also be done if one awakens during the night.

  • Try drinking warm milk, taking a relaxing bath, reading something pleasant and perhaps journal some thoughts prior to bedtime.

  • If insomnia is prevalent, discuss medication options with a physician.

Caregivers must take time for themselves and focus on their own needs (both physical and emotional) to avoid depleting their strength and energy. Keeping a daily log of sleeping habits can be a “wake up call” to caregivers and a helpful tool for the doctor to determine recommended solutions. Record the quality of sleep as well as the frequency. Record also the foods eaten and the use of medication, caffeine and alcohol. Note the activities engaged in during the day as well as the emotions. After several weeks, trends may appear that offer great insight into the toll of caregiving and the decisions that need to be made to decrease fatigue and increase energy.

After years of sleep deprivation, fatigue can become a chronic state. The body’s biological clocks are disrupted and symptoms of aging seem to accelerate. One adult daughter, who cared for her mother daily for three years, felt she herself had aged ten years and gained over 50 pounds. Three months after her mother was able to move to an assisted living facility, the daughter appeared physically transformed and actually looked younger than before she became a caregiver. She attributed it to finally being able to sleep normally and to focus on her own daily care needs now that her mother’s needs were being met by a caring staff.

It can clearly be seen that fatigue and sleep deprivation strongly impact the caregiver’s ability to provide the best possible care to their loved one. Family caregivers are at risk and must open their eyes to their own needs and solutions that may be available to them. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness! When someone else takes over the caregiving responsibilities, even for a short time, caregivers can step back, focus on themselves, rest and get recharged.

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