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Fighting Caregiver Fatigue
By Kristine Dwyer, Staff Writer
Fortunately, there are many things that
can help to decrease weariness and promote a good
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
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
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