Being a caregiver for someone suffering from panic attacks is generally not nearly as involved as being a caregiver for someone with a terminal illnesse, but that doesn’t mean that it is a stress free job as you want to help them maintain maximum independence and learn panic self help.  The United States Department of Health and Human Services on their Women’s Health Page (http://www.womenshealth.gov) has come up with these tips for caregivers, and remember, a care giver is not only a spouse, but anyone who provides help to someone needing it.

What can I do to prevent or relieve stress?

To begin with, never dismiss your feelings as “just stress.” Caregiver stress can lead to serious health problems and you should take steps to reduce it as much as you can.

Research shows that people who take an active, problem-solving approach to caregiving issues are less likely to feel stressed than those who react by worrying or feeling helpless. For instance, someone with dementia may ask the same question over and over again, such as, “Where is Mary?” A positive way of dealing with this would be to say, “Mary is not here right now,” and then distract the person. You could say, “Let’s start getting lunch ready,” or involve the person in simple tasks, such as folding laundry.

Some hospitals offer classes that can teach you how to care for someone with the disease that your loved one is facing. To find these classes, ask your doctor, contact an organization that focuses on this disease, or call your local Area Agency on Aging (see below). Other good sources of caregiving information include:

  • doctors and nurses
  • library books
  • web sites of disease-specific organizations

Here are some more tips for reducing stress:

  • Find out about caregiving resources in your community (see below).
  • Ask for and accept help. Be prepared with a mental list of ways that others can help you, and let the helper choose what she would like to do. For instance, one person might be happy to take the person you care for on a walk a couple times a week. Someone else might be glad to pick up some groceries for you.
  • If you need financial help taking care of a relative, don’t be afraid to ask family members to contribute their fair share.
  • Say “no” to requests that are draining, such as hosting holiday meals.
  • Don’t feel guilty that you are not a “perfect” caregiver. Just as there is no “perfect parent,” there is no such thing as a “perfect caregiver.” You’re doing the best you can.
  • Identify what you can and cannot change. You may not be able to change someone else’s behavior, but you can change the way that you react to it.
  • Set realistic goals. Break large tasks into smaller steps that you can do one at a time.
  • Prioritize, make lists, and establish a daily routine.
  • Stay in touch with family and friends.
  • Join a support group for caregivers in your situation, such as caring for someone with dementia. Besides being a great way to make new friends, you can also pick up some caregiving tips from others who are facing the same problems you are.
  • Make time each week to do something that you want to do, such as go to a movie.
  • Try to find time to be physically active on most days of the week, eat a healthy diet, and get enough sleep.
  • See your doctor for a checkup. Tell her that you are a caregiver and tell her about any symptoms of depression or sickness you may be having.
  • Try to keep your sense of humor.

If you work outside the home and are feeling overwhelmed, consider taking a break from your job. Employees covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act may be able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for relatives. Ask your human resources office about options for unpaid leave.

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