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Tuesday, 17 July 2018 08:00

Why losing your cool doesn’t make you a bad caregiver

Not many people understand the kind of patience it takes to deal with the frustrating, unusual, stressful, repetitive and at times, hilarious, behaviours of those living with dementia.

Caregivers are faced with dealing with a rollercoaster of behaviours day in and day out, so it’s no wonder that this can sometimes catch up with you in the form of a blowout. As a caregiver you may lose your cool, not once, but many times, and it’s important to remember: it’s ok.

Losing your cool means that you’re only human and while you’re doing your best, this may just indicate that something is missing from your own life.

Have you ever thought about why you’re losing your cool? In the heat of the moment it’s obvious – you’re frustrated, impatient or just down right exhausted. But nine-times-out-of-ten, there’s an underlying reason behind a blowout.

Here are some of the potential reasons to consider:

  • Exhaustion and lack of sleep
  • Frustration over a lack of control in your own life
  • Frustration over a lack of privacy
  • Chronic stress
  • Worry and uncertainty
  • Financial stress
  • Sadness or grief – a lack of processing emotion
  • Depression and anxiety

While you may think you have your emotions 100% under control, what you may be experiencing is ‘displaced aggression’. As life coach Martha Beck explains, ‘stress rolls downhill’ which means our bottled up emotions or displaced aggression is dumped on the nearest target – your care receiver or loved ones.

Losing your cool could be a blessing in disguise as it may indicate that you simply need more in your life. Here are some of the most common ‘needs’ for hands-on caregivers and how to achieve them:

1. Personal time – caregiver respite is incredibly important. Whether it’s a couple of hours a day or a full weekend to yourself, this can do wonders for your own mental and emotional well-being.
2. An extra pair of hands – by this we mean more help. Don’t let your pride get in the way of this. Asking for help in the form of a hired aid, relatives or friends a couple times a week can take immense pressure off you.
3. A way to relieve stress – you may need to blow off some steam, and that is 100% healthy. Choose healthy ways of doing so: exercise, journaling, dancing, listening to music, cooking, baking or support groups.
4. Better sleep – stress negatively affects sleep cycles and this can really get the better of you. Sleep feeds a spring of good health, energy, mood and your levels of patience. If your caregiving duties are drastically affecting your sleep, you may need to reassess your routine and how this can be resolved. Remember not to postpone your own medical check-ups as disturbed sleep could indicate an underlying condition.
5. Be kind to yourself – this includes making time for the things your personally enjoy. Make your favourite meal every now and then, listen to the music you enjoy, watch your favourite show, engage in your favourite past-times. If your lifestyle is 100% governed by what your care receiver enjoys, you will end up completely losing yourself in it all.

At the end of the day, focusing on the disease and your caregiving duties to the point of complete exclusion could be your undoing. It may be easier said than done, but don’t forget about yourself in the bigger picture of your life!

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