Family Matters: Four Ways to Reduce the Stress of Caregiving


by Marla Holt · October 17, 2013
Four helpful ways to reduce caregiving stress.

Caregiving is especially hard on families. Yet there are ways to manage that stress, says Robert Kane, M.D., director of the Center on Aging at the University of Minnesota and author of It Shouldn’t Be This Way: The Failure of Long-Term Care and The Good Caregiver.

How can you manage such stress? Kane offers these tips:

Talk to Each Other
Discuss what caregiving means to your individual family. Who will provide most of the care and how will other family members be supportive? Who is best at being organized and vigilant to your loved one’s needs? Create a plan that works for your family, taking into account your finances and your values.
Become a Quick Study
People rarely prepare in advance for caregiving, says Kane, so learn along the way by taking advantage of appropriate resources, such as national caregiving organizations, local area agencies on aging, and other professionals in the industry. Also, rely on other caregivers who have “been there, done that” to provide valuable tips.
Let Go of the Idea of Perfection
Accepting a new reality will help to reduce stress. For example, while Kane and his sister were caring for their aging mother, his sister was bothered by the fact that their mother, who had always been very stylish, was now living in easy-to-wash tracksuits. “Caregiving means letting go of little things,” Kane says. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Don’t be a Critic
If you’re not the one providing the majority of care, find something useful to do other than griping and criticizing. This is the time to take on tasks (particularly those you thought you could do better) to learn how truly difficult caregiving can be.

Overall, the biggest mistake caregiving families make, Kane says, is not asking for help. “There is no magic pill for reducing stress,” he says, “but asking for and accepting help goes a long way toward managing it.”