Photo by Mizuno K

On several occasions, I have shared an embarrassing and angering moment I had in the grocery store. Let’s talk about dealing with caregiver stress.

As I stood in the checkout line, an elderly woman and her daughter were bagging their groceries as the clerk was scanning them. The elderly woman put a box of milk and a carton of eggs in a bag, and the middle-aged daughter went ballistic. The daughter yelled for her to stop, told her she was stupid and grabbed the bag, and quickly removed the two items. The elderly woman was visibly embarrassed as the daughter continued to berate her loudly. Checking stopped, and customers looked at the scene with pity, anger, and sadness.

The checker knew I was a caregiver for my mother and gave me a begging look not to intervene. As I watched the daughter pay for her groceries and loudly usher the old, visibly embarrassed woman out of the store. Truly, smoke was coming out of my ears in anger. In my mind, this was a perfect example of when someone shouldn’t be a caregiver.

However, I began asking myself the usual questions; What occurred at home to make her so short with her mother? Was there trouble in her marriage, with finances, with children, or with a spouse? Caregiving can be extremely stressful, and something as simple as combining milk and eggs in a shopping bag might be the ending straw. Caregiving requires patience, and it takes a long time to develop patience to a point where simple errors don’t send you over the edge. Dealing with caregiver stress takes time.

Since the pandemic, millennials have become the largest group of caregivers. Prior to the pandemic, this age group leads a mobile, carefree life with nothing to tie them down or curb their appetite for adventure. Suddenly they found themselves not only tied down at home due to the lockdown but also tied down caring for another person. The social media chat rooms began to explode with millennial caregivers complaining they needed a break, their loved one had dementia, and the repetitive comments were causing them to have thoughts of hurting their loved ones. They complained that they weren’t prepared to deal with the occasional unpleasant tasks caregivers face. People on the chat, who obviously had no clue how to be a caregiver, suggested they seek therapy to cope. My question was, who is going to sit with Grandma while you cry on a couch to someone? Dealing with caregiver stress calls us to be emotionally stable.

But I understand the stress associated with caregiving is indeed real.

When I was faced with some difficult days, I learned to find balance. Balance is something as simple as stepping outside and getting some fresh air for a few moments. Taking a few moments to gather your thoughts and relax. Some people find balance in exercise or burning off stress, cooking, meditating for a few moments, or deep breathing. The calm associated with balance allows a caregiver to return to the task at hand.

Today, there are many resources available online to caregivers experiencing stress. Social media provides options to seek assistance, respite, or just advice when caregiving becomes stressful. Employers have become acutely aware when caregivers are faced with choices of staying home to care for an elderly relative or going to the office. The workplace has become flexible to alleviate caregiver stresses. If a caregiver finds they still need the help of a therapist, there is telemedicine. 

Telemedicine is also a great stress reliever for finding assistance for you or your loved one.

In my book, One Caregiver’s Journey, I discuss the various levels of stress I encountered during the almost decade I cared for my mother in my home. The book is a snapshot I time of the realities of the changes and challenges caregivers face. Grab a copy on Amazon and check out my website   

I have not witnessed another embarrassing scene at a store. I am sure I would not stand by idly again. It is the equivalent of watching a public admonishment of a child. It is embarrassing. Watching such unhappiness, short fuse, or stress transferred to another person is unnecessary in any scenario. Dealing with caregiver stress is a skill essential for every professional and family caregiver.

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