1. What are problems caretakers experience?

a. Stress- emotional, physical, spiritual
b. Allowing others to drain their energy-boundaries
c. Getting health care
d. Caring for their spirit and attitude
e. Not pursuing life goals/dreams
f. Trouble understanding being responsible
to others vs for others
g. Making good choices-being present & aware in the moment
h. Problems with self-respect or “other” respect

2. What problems come from not addressing stress?

a. High stress levels release the stress hormone, cortisol, on an ongoing basis. This constant release of cortisol makes the risk of heart problems multiply by 5x. There is also risk of adrenal gland fatigue. Cortisol aids in body wide inflammation increase and this inflammation is a precursor of many diseases.
b. High stress levels can take a toll on your ability to think clearly or act prudently. You are therefore more likely to make mistakes and have accidents which just adds to stress levels. Stressful actions can cause you to be yelled at or for you to respond to others in anger. You could be risking your job or your relationships as well as damaging your own self esteem.

3. What can be done to reduce stress?

a. Do little things throughout each day to release tension. Enjoy a few minutes of sunshine. Take a walk. Focus intently on an object, its shape, its color, its purpose, etc. Smell something good. Look at something that brings you joy. Do some deep breathing. Slow down. Focus. Make lists to keep you on track. Find a bit of humor in your day.
b. Join support groups. Go out with positive friends. Enjoy the free expression of fun that happy children have- got grandchildren? Help someone with a fun project. Visit a zoo. Be in nature. Get a massage. Relax.

4. What can be done about energy drainers?

a. First, realize that you may be allowing people and situations to drain you. Setting and maintaining boundaries in relationships is like a contract. It helps to define what you expect from others and what you will not tolerate from them, like disrespect. The more you tolerate things like disrespect, the more often it will occur. If you don’t set a boundary, that if crossed, has consequences, you are setting the expectation that you will not object to this abuse.
b. Some people are whiners, but do nothing to change their situation. Consider making the 3X whine rule. They can whine to you three times about something, but if they have done nothing to change the situation, you will not listen to their complaint again. This assumes that their complaint is not about you, but about something they can alter themselves with some action.
c. Giving excellent service can put you in good stead with your client immediately and possibly cut short any energy draining that might have occurred otherwise. I have two clients that could have been disasters to work with, but both don’t want me to be taken away from them. I show them respect and give excellent service. My boundaries are clear, too.

5. What can caretakers do to care for their own health?

a. Get plenty of sleep, 7-8 hours a night. The mind and body really do a lot of housekeeping while you sleep and only when you sleep. This time is restorative and only you can make sure you are honoring your own body’s need for rest.
b. Exercise and stretching keep the body strong and flexible. They help the mind stay sharp and support proper body functioning. Care takers often bend over clients and really need to keep their backs strong. Pull the shoulders back and the shoulder blades toward each other often during the day. Good posture will have its rewards as you age.
c. Support your feet. Don’t wear flip flops. If you have high arches or flat feet, get orthotics or wear really supportive shoes. Ignoring problem feet can later cause foot problems and joint problems up the body. Feet are your base. If you base is bad, so is what is being supported by it.
d. Eat well. Your body can only work well if it is fueled well. Junk food is junk for the body and mind. Think before you eat.
e. Vitamins and nutrients are vital as our food supply has been so degraded by modern farming methods and giant food corporations forcing genetically modified crops on the world.
f. Take care of your health. See you doctor, chiropractor, massage therapist, etc.

6. How can caretakers care for their spirit and attitude?

a. This goes back to dealing with stress, finding enjoyable things to do alone or with others, setting boundaries, and keeping them, eating well, sleeping well, being in nature, and finding humor. If religion is uplifting to you, attending services of your choice is helpful. Working to forgive others and yourself is key to letting go of anxiety and resentment, too.
Would you want someone who is physically, mentally, and spiritually empty to take care of someone you love?

7. Are care givers setting aside life goals? If so, what can they do?

a. Often that is the case. Family care givers may have to do that more than others.
b. Look at where you are and where you would like to be. Each small step toward your goal is a success so lay out a plan of small steps. Do them. Cross them off the list. Celebrate them. Inching forward is better than no forward movement at all.
c. Listen to you. Close your eyes. Scan your body one section at a time mentally. What do you feel? Where do you feel pain, tightness, cold or heat? Become aware of you. Your body is crying out to be heard. By the time it has to shout, you are injured. Now, repeat that process with your life goals and dreams. Listen to what you tell yourself, what you really feel, and what you really need. Listen to your own wisdom.

8. What do you mean by being responsible to others, but not for others?

a. A caretaker is responsible to her charge for the things she has agreed to do to care for the other. She is responsible to him to see that the things he cannot do for himself are done for him. She is not responsible for the actions or reactions of the one needing care. There is no need to take on the blame for what someone else chooses to do. Many caretakers see the others actions as a reflection of the care they provide and blame themselves. Being responsible for someone implies that the other cannot do anything for themselves, cannot control themselves and their behavior and isn’t expected to. Help your client to take responsibility for him/herself where they can.

9. What did you mean by being present and aware in the moment?

a. Stress can cause us to be scattered and unfocused, away from the here and now. When we are in that state, we tend to make poor choices and miss social cues, leave late for appointments, etc. We miss being aware of what is happening right in front of us right now. We have the ability to make choices all the time no matter our state of mind. Our combined choices big and small are the framework of our lives. Where are your choices leading you?

10. So how can our readers live regret free lives while care giving?

a. Do your very best in your responsibilities to those in your care. Take pride in how well you do your job. Self esteem is important. Be gentle on yourself if you don’t live up to your ideals. Being human is a journey of imperfection.
b. Communicate clearly and be assertive with your needs and expectations. Don’t say ‘yes’ when you mean ‘no’.
c. Clear up misunderstandings quickly and as nicely as you can.
d. Make caring for yourself a priority. If you don’t, your health will deteriorate until you can’t care for anyone, including yourself.
e. Work toward forgiveness for self and others. Hate and resentment are heavy burdens. Remember that forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. Let go of relationships and things that do you harm.
f. Respect your client. Ask for their expectations and boundaries. Listen to and hear them. Ask for clarification if you are confused or need more information. Be considerate of their belongings, their organizational style, and their way of life. Become the trusted companion.

Author's Bio: 

Linda Mac Dougall has an M.A. in Psychology and has spent many years working with the developmentally disabled as direct care to an administrator of two large group homes. She was a federal advocate for the state of Hawaii’s DD population before training in holistic health and massage, and specializing in seniors and the disabled. www.seniormassagegroup.com
More recently she has begun 'Love Your Longevity', a speaking adventure addressing baby boomers and their children on healthy aging. Soon there will also be a subscription website to compliment this venture. In the meantime http://www.globalvitalityresources.com/resource/na/holistic-well-being/l...