The Caring Generation® Caregiver Exhaustion Tired of Caring for Elderly Parents
The Caring Generation® – Episode 20 December 18, 2019. On this caregiving radio program Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert, shares tips for caregiver exhaustion and feeling Tired of Caring for Elderly Parents. Dr. Brooks Cash from the University of Texas Health Science Center and the McGovern School of Medicine in Houston talks about smoking and digestive problems.
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Caregiver Exhaustion: I’m Tired of Caring for Elderly Parents
00:00 Announcer: Caregiving can sometimes feel like an impossible struggle. Caregivers may be torn between taking care of loved ones and trying to maintain balance in life. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. The Caring Generation with host, Pamela D. Wilson, is here to focus on the conversation of caring. You’re not alone. In fact, you are in exactly the right place to share stories and learn tips and resources to help you and your loved ones. So now, please welcome the host of The Caring Generation, Pamela D. Wilson.
00:48 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host, you’re listening to the Caring Generation radio program coming to you live from the BBM global network Channel 100 and TuneIn radio. The Caring Generation focuses on conversations about health, well-being, caring for ourselves, loved ones, work-life balance, and everything in between. All tied together with a little bit of humor and laughter that are essential to being a caregiver. Take The Caring Generation with you wherever you go on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Pandora, iHeart Radio, Spotify, Spreaker, Stitcher, Sound Cloud, Castbox and more. You can share the program with your elderly parents and family members. Download a podcast app to their cell phones and show them how to listen. It’s the perfect way to help begin conversations about caregiving by letting me do the talking for you.
01:42 Pamela D. Wilson: This week, we’ll be talking about caregiver exhaustion and how this relates to being tired of caring for elderly parents and spouses. Exhaustion happens for many reasons that are and are not related to being a caregiver. Caregiver exhaustion can result from stress and having too many things to do. The daily wear and tear of projects related to being a caregiver plus working, raising children, going to school, all of the activities that we do day-in and day-out can result in exhaustion. Being exhausted results in habits and behaviors that are unhealthy. Eating fast food, staying awake by drinking large quantities of coffee or caffeinated beverages, smoking or drinking more than normal. Add to this, the feeling we don’t have time for ourselves. We stop exercising, stop calling, or seeing friends and end activities we would normally do.
02:36 Pamela D. Wilson: During the show, we will talk about other situations that result in caregiver exhaustion that make us feel tired of caring for elderly parents or spouses. In the second segment of the show we will talk with Dr. Brooks Cash about the connection between smoking and digestive problems. My mother smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for many years. Her smoking resulted in heart problems plus constant indigestion, burping, a hiatal hernia, and many other stomach issues. On most days, she didn’t feel very good. I was shocked to learn years after my mother’s death, that smoking caused these stomach problems. I don’t recall her doctors ever connecting smoking to her stomach, except they did tell her to stop smoking. She died from bladder cancer, also related to smoking.
03:24 Pamela D. Wilson: Dr. Brooks Cash, who will join us, is Chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. He served 24 years in the United States Navy retiring in 2013 at the rank of Captain. For 20 of these years, he was stationed at Bethesda Naval Hospital and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in the Washington DC area. He’s written over 150 articles and book chapters on a wide variety of topics. If you know anyone who smokes you will want to hear this interview and share the podcast replay with your family members and friends.
04:06 Pamela D. Wilson: Many people believe that smoking relieves stress. There is research that confirms that nicotine initially supports a sense of relaxation but then increases feelings of anxiety, not good for caregivers. Feeling exhausted affects our bodies physically and mentally. Physically, we feel tired and have no energy at all. Mentally, we become unable to focus and struggle to keep up. Caregiver exhaustion results in being unable to manage our emotions. We might snap or be impatient with elderly parents, family members, or co-workers. The inability to concentrate results in us feeling more frustrated. We might feel anxious about not being able to complete work projects or worried about making mistakes.
04:56 Pamela D. Wilson: Trying to juggle work and being a caregiver can be challenging. Some companies, through their human resource departments, are beginning to recognize the toll that juggling work and caring for elderly parents and spouses takes on employees. I provide caregiver education programs for corporations. Becoming more educated about what can happen, helps employees reduce feelings of caregiver exhaustion and being tired of caregiving for elderly parents and spouses. We talked in general about what makes caregivers feel stressed and exhausted. So, let’s talk in greater detail about how interactions with elderly parents and spouses add to caregiver exhaustion and stress.
05:41 Pamela D. Wilson: Initially in the beginning, when adult children begin helping out, the children may not see themselves as caregivers. When I was in this position, I didn’t. Helping out and caregiving are not connected ideas. As the tasks and time grows beyond a few hours a week and extend the health concerns, the idea of being a caregiver becomes relevant. Relevance is the idea of “what does this have to do with me?” Relevance means that information is interesting and worth knowing. When something like learning about caregiving health and well-being is relevant to us, information becomes easier to learn, and we’re more interested.
06:00 Pamela D. Wilson: There’s another concept called the reticular activator in our brain. An example of the reticular activator in action happens when you buy a car. All of a sudden, you’re driving around town and you see the car that you bought everywhere. Before buying the car, you would have never noticed that car on the street. This reticular activator in your brain when you become interested in caregiving, health, and well-being will do the same. It will point out podcasts like The Caring Generation radio or television commercials about health products. You will start to hear friends talking about caregiving.
07:00 Pamela D. Wilson: Our brains have a tendency to shut out information we don’t need when we are stressed and exhausted. When we need information that is relevant, our brain helps us notice information and things in our environment to try and help us out. Research can help us understand the importance of repetition. How many times do we have to hear information before we listen? There’s something out there called the Rule of Seven, and it means that we must hear information, see information, or be given information at least seven times and sometimes up to 20 times for us to listen and take action. The best example I can give you about this is adult children, who would meet with me in my office. When they called to make the appointment, they said things like, “I carried your business card in my wallet for two years, I’ve listened to your radio show. I saw you speaking at an event. Your website is helpful. Mary Smith, my friend, told me I should call and meet with you about my elderly parents.” When I asked them what took them so long, do you know what they said? They said, “Well, caring for my elderly parents wasn’t that bad, it’s bad now.”
08:06 Pamela D. Wilson: My advice is, don’t wait until it gets that bad to seek help. By then you’re going to be burned out. Also understand that your elderly parents benefit from repetition. When you hear, “You didn’t tell me that,” find ways to help your parents remember, even if it’s making notes for them, or writing instructions. Of course, they’ll tell you not to do this. Do it anyway. It will save you time and energy from having to repeat everything to them, multiple, multiple times. Up next Dr. Brooks Cash is going to join us about smoking and digestive problems. Very important information for all of us to know. Most of us don’t understand the connection between smoking, digestive problems and all of the other health issues. This is Pamela D Wilson on The Caring Generation live on the BBM global network Channel 100 and TuneIn. Radio. Stay with me. We’ll be right back after this break.
11:24 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host. You’re listening to The Caring Generation, coming to you live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100 in TuneIn Radio. We’re back to talk about smoking and digestive problems. Dr. Brooks Cash, the Director of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition for the McGovern Medical School at UT Health in Houston, Texas, joins us. Dr. Cash good evening.
11:50 Dr. Brooks Cash: Good evening, thanks for having me.
11:52 Pamela D. Wilson: My pleasure. When most of us think about the effects of smoking, we think of lung disease and breathing issues like COPD, or bronchitis, not really diseases of the digestive system. Why don’t we hear more about the digestive effects?
12:08 Dr. Brooks Cash: Well, I think it’s probably multiple factors. There’s a general reticence of people to talk about digestive issues. They’re sensitive and sometimes I think people are embarrassed to talk about what’s going on with their GI tracts, especially the lower GI tract when it has to do with diarrhea or constipation, things like that. And I think the other factor may be that there’s just a lack of understanding that everything’s tied in and that we tend to think of smoking as dangerous to the lungs and to the cardiovascular system, but perhaps not so much to the GI system.
12:43 Pamela D. Wilson: In simple terms, how does smoking result in heartburn, GERD, peptic ulcers. My mom smoked and she had all of this stuff, she was miserable. How does it result in all these digestive concerns?
12:56 Dr. Brooks Cash: Yes, that’s a great question and we don’t have all the answers. But there’s definitely a linkage between smoking and a lot of the common GI things that we see and what we primarily see in gastroenterology in terms of the conditions that you mentioned, the most common is going to be gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. And we do know that smoking does have effects on the sphincter over the flap basically, between the esophagus and the stomach. So that that tone of that sphincter is loosened and when that tone is less, that allows the influx of gastric contents up into the esophagus and that’s what causes GERD symptoms, and the classic symptoms are heartburn and a sense of regurgitation.
13:42 Dr. Brooks Cash: More importantly and more ominously, smoking is associated with diseases of the esophagus such as a couple of different cancers. The most prominent would be what we call squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus. But it’s also associated because of its association with GERD, with another type of cancer called adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.
14:05 Dr. Brooks Cash: In terms of peptic ulcer disease, we don’t see that as commonly but the major causes of peptic ulcer disease are non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like Aspirin and Motrin and basically the pain medicines that work in that fashion as well as an infection called H. Pylori. But smoking also has effects on the blood vessels and the perfusion of the GI tract. So, you get what’s basically called ischemia, same thing that happens with a heart attack. The stomach doesn’t get enough blood. That allows damage to the lining of the stomach and allows acid to actually get down into the stomach and burn it and cause an ulcer. So those are a least the two most common things that we see in terms of the connection with smoking in the stomach and the esophagus, and there’s wide-ranging issues which occurs to other parts of the GI tract as well.
15:00 Pamela D. Wilson: Talking, hearing you say all that makes my stomach hurt. [chuckle] What is the effect on daily health and functioning for people who have these diseases? Do they have to take medications or what happens?
15:11 Dr. Brooks Cash: A lot of them do. The vast majority of people with reflux or GERD, and that’s about 10% of the population, actually don’t even see a doctor with the availability now with antacids especially what we call the proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole and there’s multiple others, available over-the-counter. A lot of people self-treat, and they’ll take those medicines periodically. They pick them up at drug stores or big box stores, but they really should see a doctor if they have chronic symptoms of reflux or heartburn and regurgitation because of the risk of cancer and the risk of other things like strictures or narrowing in the esophagus, and food can get stuck. That’s a medical emergency. You can get a perforation of the esophagus which is a terrible condition to have and it’s life-threatening.
16:00 Dr. Brooks Cash: So, for a lot of these conditions, people do take chronic medicines. Whether it’s on their own or whether it’s in consultation with a physician, but many of them are manageable either with medicines as we mentioned, or lifestyle modifications, and certainly among the top lifestyle modifications that we recommend, especially for reflux, would be weight loss as well as cessation of smoking. And those two are really key, for multiple reasons. Of course, with smoking because of the other effects on the body but certainly with regards to the GI symptoms, it can be very helpful to cease tobacco use.
16:40 Pamela D. Wilson: In Colorado, Marijuana here is legal, and they have all these commercials about marijuana and vaping. Does smoking marijuana have the same effect as cigarettes and does vaping have the same effect?
16:52 Dr. Brooks Cash: Well, we’re just starting to learn about the effects of vaping and we’re seeing more and more about the harmful effects of vaping. We have not really gotten great evidence to support harmful effects of vaping on the GI tract although my assumption would be that certainly it can’t be very helpful for the GI tract. Marijuana doesn’t seem to cause the same effects as tobacco smoking on the GI tract. However, there are some specific conditions that heavy marijuana use can actually cause in the GI tract. The most prominent is something called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which is where heavy users, especially inhalational Marijuana can get chronic nausea and vomiting. It’s very cyclical and it could be very debilitating. And many people use Marijuana as a treatment for nausea, but it actually can make nausea much, much worse. The classic history is they feel better when they take a hot shower or a warm bath. And so, if patients, if individuals have those symptoms, and they’re marijuana users, they need to stop using the marijuana because that’s the cure for that condition.
17:57 Pamela D. Wilson: Now, that is interesting. We are going to be heading out to a break in a minute, we will continue our conversation with Dr. Brooks Cash from the McGovern Medical School at UT Health in Houston, Texas after this break. If you are a smoker, if you know someone who is a smoker, make sure that you save this podcast, listen to it, it’ll be available in about a week. Share it with other friends. Join me each week for The Caring Generation where we talk about how to be proactive to avoid surprises about health, well-being, caring for ourselves and our loved ones. I’m Pamela D. Wilson, your host. You are listening live on the BBM Global Network Channel 100 in TuneIn radio. You can catch the show on all of your favorite podcast channels Apple Podcast, Google podcast, iTunes, Spreaker, Stitcher, SoundCloud, Castbox and more. Share the program with your elderly parents and family members. We will be right back after this break.
21:14 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D Wilson, your host, you’re listening live on the BBM Global Network, Channel 100 and TuneIn Radio to The Caring Generation. We’re back with our conversation with Dr. Brooks Cash from the McGovern Medical School at UT Health in Houston, Texas. Dr Cash talk about the connection between smoking and colon cancer.
21:33 Dr. Brooks Cash: Well, that’s a great question. There’s definitely a linkage there. Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer in the United States. It’s the third most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women combined. A huge issue. And smoking as well as obesity are some of the causes in addition to age are really the major risk factors for the development of colorectal cancer. It can be prevented by timely screening and removal of polyps but there’s definitely a linkage there. It’s probably from the toxins that the smoke, the tobacco inhalation conveys, and that’s the same ideology or cause for many of the cancers that tobacco use is associated with.
22:17 Pamela D. Wilson: I see commercials on television also for medications to treat inflammatory bowel disease. How does smoking progress to IBS and Crohn’s disease, and all of those?
22:29 Dr. Brooks Cash: Yes. So smoking, definitely has a linkage with inflammatory bowel disease or IBD. And there are two major forms of IBD, one is called ulcerative colitis and the other is called Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease affects the entire GI tract, and it is inflammation of the entire thickness of the GI tract. And that has clearly been linked with smoking in terms of a lesser response to medications, and more severe course, greater likelihood of having to have surgery. And conversely and interestingly, we don’t know exactly why, ulcerative colitis actually seems to be less severe in smokers. Now we certainly don’t invoke or recommend initiation of smoking to treat your inflammatory bowel disease and ulcerative colitis, but there’s some differential effects there.
23:17 Dr. Brooks Cash: Again, we don’t really know exactly how smoking seems to be associated with the worst course in Crohn’s disease. But it is absolutely recommended and we make sure that we talk to our Crohn’s disease patients if they are smokers, that they really need to stop smoking. And when they do, their clinical course and their response to medications actually is improved.
23:37 Pamela D. Wilson: So that was my next question. So, if somebody stopped smoking, and they use nicotine patches or something else, do all of these digestive issues just go away?
23:45 Dr. Brooks Cash: Not all of them. Some of them are irreversible and some of them may not necessarily be caused by smoking, but they can be worsened by smoking. But when people stop smoking, they can still have these symptoms. But especially with regards to Crohn’s and even reflux, those symptoms can get better, and of course the risk of the long-term complications from those conditions then becomes less. So, it’s critically important, and the other, there’s other top or other target organs if you will, and within the GI tract, most importantly the pancreas that have been really linked and pancreatic cancer linked to smoking and chronic pancreatitis as well. And when patients stop, or an individual stops smoking, that risk dramatically goes down. So, it’s just like all the other complications of smoking. The same thing holds true for the GI tract and you can lessen your risk of these long-term complications and conditions by stopping.
24:41 Pamela D. Wilson: You mentioned pancreatic cancer and other conditions. My mom, she was a smoker she stopped smoking. She had strokes, she died of bladder cancer. What other issues that we might not know of, are related to smoking that we don’t talk about?
24:54 Dr. Brooks Cash: Well, there’s, I briefly mentioned pancreatic cancer, and there’s also a risk of liver cancer, just basically any solid organ malignancy or cancer, even risk of gallstones. Those are very common, especially in older females, for some reasons. But smoking has been linked to gallstone formation, and that can cause inflammation of the gallbladder. Patients may have to get their gallbladders removed. They may get a gallstone that gets lodged in the little ducts or tubes that drain the liver and the pancreas and that can cause inflammation of those organs as well. So, lots and lots of other associations between smoking and other disorders, even aside from cancers of the GI tract and those have been the major ones that we tend to think about along with the solid organ malignancies.
25:46 Pamela D. Wilson: You have just amazing experience. You’ve written over 150 articles, where can listeners go to find more articles or information about the effects of smoking so that they can become more proactive?
25:58 Dr. Brooks Cash: That’s a great question. One of my favorite places to refer patients to, is a series of informational pamphlets that the NIH, National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Digestive – Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney diseases, the NIDDK. They put out a series of patient pamphlets that are very helpful and useful on a wide range of gastrointestinal disorders. Very easy to understand, and links and other things that patients can go to. There is one about smoking and digestive system. And I was lucky enough, and privileged enough to be a proof reader and consultant on that. I certainly would recommend that. I think it’s a great resource for smoking and the GI tract, but also lots of other issues with regards to gastrointestinal health.
26:51 Pamela D. Wilson: And you mentioned colon cancer being a big part of smoking, at what age does somebody really start to go to get a colonoscopy especially if they’re younger and they smoke. Should they get a colonoscopy earlier or what do you recommend?
27:07 Dr. Brooks Cash: We’re starting, that’s a great question, we’re starting to recognize certain of these factors that may actually push people to need to get screened earlier. There are multiple tests for screening. Of course, we, the colonoscopy is the gold standard. Right now, it’s in a little bit of flux. There’s a wide agreement that these average risk individuals should start to get screened at age 50. Last year, the American Cancer Society came out with what’s called a qualified recommendation that patients should start to get screened at age 45. That still has to be proven to be beneficial. But many insurers are now covering screening starting age 45. Because we’re seeing more and more colon cancer in younger patients, and so we are screening people when we can, and they can get it covered by their payer or by their insurance companies at age 45. So, we’re lowering those ages and hopefully, that will translate into increases in the level — decreased incidence of colon cancer. But right now, the age is between 45 and 50, for average risk individuals.
28:05 Pamela D. Wilson: Okay Dr. Cash, thank you so much for joining us. This podcast will be available in about a week. I’ll be sure to get a copy to you. Coming after this break, we are going to continue to talk about solutions for caregiver exhaustion and being tired of caring for elderly parents. Helpful information for caregivers and aging adults are on my website, along with all of the podcast replays of The Caring Generation. The website is PamelaDWilson.com. I’m Pamela D Wilson, your host. You’re listening to The Caring Generation live on the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn radio. Stay with me, we’ll be right back.
30:58 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D Wilson, caregiving expert. I’m your host. You’re listening to The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults coming to you live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn radio. The Caring Generation is the place where we share tips and things you should know about life. Help, hope, and support for caregivers are available on my website at PamelaDWilson.com. We’re back to continue our discussion: Solutions for caregiver exhaustion and being tired of caring for elderly parents, spouses and other family members. Have you noticed when you are mentally exhausted you have this sensation of burning through time? Caregivers burn the candle at both ends constantly doing things. Time passes quickly. If you’re at work, an entire day might pass by, and you haven’t checked off a single item on your to-do list.
31:53 Pamela D. Wilson: The same goes for being at home, the day goes by. That list you had with 10 items. Maybe two are completed. Caregiver exhaustion benefits from what I call a reset. A reset is a break where you can clear your mind of being tired of being a caregiver. Wherever you are, if you can take a break from light and noise, find a quiet room, a quiet place, turn off the lights. If there are window shades or curtains see if you can close them. Sit in the dark In the quiet for about 10 minutes or so to calm your mind, and your brain that just keeps racing.
32:34 Pamela D. Wilson: If you meditate all the better. Meditate in a quiet, dark room. This action of getting away from all the noise and all the commotion helps relieve caregiver exhaustion and it calms our minds from thoughts of being tired of caring for elderly parents and spouses. There’s a term called “over-stimulation” and it applies to all of us. When we are in noisy places with other people, constant movement, this is an example of over-stimulation. It’s when our brain and our mind are taking on too much information at once, and we feel overwhelmed. How do you know if you are in situations where your brain is over-stimulated? Do you bite your nails? Do you find it difficult to sit still and concentrate on a single project? Is your mind racing with thoughts and projects that you need to complete? Do you have trouble sleeping, because you wake up worried about elderly parents or you have so much on your mind from work that your brain keeps running through that checklist and you can’t sleep?
33:35 Pamela D. Wilson: Headaches, stomach upset, heart palpitations, feeling anxious or light-headed are all symptoms of being over-stimulated. Add to this, watching television or laptop, computers, phones, tablets, cell phones, anything electronic that pulls our attention. Physical locations can also be over-stimulating. For example, any time of year that you’re at a large shopping mall or maybe you’re attending a concert with over 100,000 people. That can be too much for some people. People who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, they become over-stimulated by too much noise, too many people, and conversations that are too fast. Slow and steady works best when caring for a loved one, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
34:26 Pamela D. Wilson: People who experience strokes or other brain injuries also easily become over-stimulated. When you find yourself or you as a caregiver, nearing exhaustion, when you become tired, take a break. Get away to a quiet space for a reset. The Caring Generation radio program called “Caregiver Survival Skills” offers tips for creating a go-to routine when the list of caregiving task becomes too much. You can check out the show on my website PamelaDWilson.com. Go to the media tab and then The Caring Generation radio show.
35:01 Pamela D. Wilson: There are times when caregiving exhaustion results from us. Us as the caregiver being unrealistic about how much we can accomplish in a single day or even in a couple of hours. How often do you find yourself in this situation? Do you have an awareness of how much you can accomplish in a single day? Are you good at managing time? Do you complete projects at work within a certain time frame or are you always running behind? Some people find it difficult to estimate the time that it takes to complete caregiving tasks and other tasks. That feeling of being constantly over-scheduled or constantly behind results in being tired of caring for elderly parents, caregiver exhaustion. When I had my care management company, my new employees found themselves in situations because they never had to manage their time before to a schedule. They were overwhelmed. They were over-scheduled. I taught my staff to manage time and avoid over-scheduling by tracking their time. Think about this. For a period of three or four days, track your time.
36:06 Pamela D. Wilson: It will sound crazy, and it may add a little bit of stress to your day but here’s my recommendation. Track your time, in five- or 10-minute increments. What you will see from this exercise is the amount of time we waste, you waste in unproductive activities. The amount you spend devoted to a single task and the amount of time you are over-stimulated. Do you remember the signs of over-stimulation? Can’t concentrate, can’t sit still, your mind races to any bright shiny object that attracts your attention, which is a thought or a task that you are not presently working on.
36:43 Pamela D. Wilson: This time exercise, if you do it, will make crystal clear how you spend your days and what you accomplished or not. When I trained my staff, I also talked about Parkinson’s principal. If you don’t know what this is, it means that tasks expand to the time available for completion. The simplest example I can give of Parkinson’s principle is doing laundry. If you have an entire day to do laundry with no deadline, guess what? You’ll do laundry for an entire day. If you give yourself four hours for completion, you will be more organized. You’ll listen for the wash machine to end, that dryer to buzz. You will fold and put away your clothes.
37:24 Pamela D. Wilson: The time efficiency happens in part because we are focused on the activity of getting our clothes done and setting a timeframe for completion. The more that you’re able to understand how you lose time or where you get off-track, the less overwhelmed you will become. You’ll stop over-scheduling yourself; you will stop creating unrealistic deadlines that only make you feel worse when you miss the deadline. Caregiver exhaustion will happen less, because you will feel more proud of your accomplishments. Being tired of caring for elderly parents will feel more manageable. By gaining a better understanding of ourselves as caregivers, and our daily habits in managing time and projects, we gain more control over our lives.
38:09 Pamela D. Wilson: Measuring time is an activity that may be a stressful task. You may feel more pressured to perform when you track your time, but the insights you gain is valuable. You will know how long it takes to perform an activity and you’ll be able to identify how exhausted, overwhelmed and over-stimulated; you might be. We’re coming up to another break. This is Pamela D. Wilson caregiving expert, I’m your host. You’re listening to The Caring Generation live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100 and TuneIn radio. Stay with me, we’ll be right back.
41:00 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson, caregiving expert. You are listening to the Caring Generation coming to you live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 and TuneIn radio. Tips and information for caregivers and aging adults are on my website, PamelaDWilson.com along with podcast replays of The Caring Generation shows. Let’s talk about another option to relieve caregiver exhaustion and being tired of caring for elderly parents and spouses. It’s called, “attention restoration therapy.” Attention restoration therapy is the idea that people can concentrate better after having access to or spending time in nature. Research studies show that directed attention, which is the ability to focus on a project for an extended period of time, improves after we spend time in nature or listening to natural sounds like birds chirping, the wind blowing through the trees, waves of the ocean. Caregiving requires attention in a variety of ways. Many caregivers work meaning that attention is devoted towards building a career and completing work projects.
42:10 Pamela D. Wilson: Caregivers also have tasks to complete for elderly parents and loved ones. This is time devoted to being an attentive caregiver. Spouses and children also need our attention, and most importantly, caregivers have needs for self-attention and self-care. Caregiver exhaustion is real. Being tired of caring for elderly parents and spouses is real. Spending time in nature even if it’s 30 minutes a day, can help restore our attention. If you have an office with a window that looks out into nature, this view can also help your attention.
42:45 Pamela D. Wilson: Taking a drive in the car to go sit in a park, or driving on a scenic highway offers relaxation and restores our attention. In your home, put your desk in front of a window that looks out to your backyard or has a view of trees. Another interesting idea that relates to attention restoration therapy, is to plant grass. The kind of grass that grows in your yard, in a small pot and place the pot on your desk at work. The idea of running your fingers through the grass is an exercise that supports attention restoration therapy. Having a vase of flowers on your desk is another idea. Any way that you can bring nature inside to your work area. Paintings or photos of the great outdoors, this also helps reduce stress, and increases attention. Caregiving stress spills over into our personal relationships with our elderly parents and our family members. We become less patient, irritable and sometimes even hostile, which increases the likelihood that we will argue and disagree with our parents.
43:45 Pamela D. Wilson: Stress turns small issues into big issues. Caregivers under stress, we feel overwhelmed, we react emotionally. So, what other ways can we use to manage caregiver exhaustion and stress? As we talked earlier, understanding how we manage our time or over schedule our time is a start. We can do the same with feelings of stress and emotion, think about what is making you feel overwhelmed and write it down. Writing information down on paper helps us see situations in a more objective way.
44:19 Pamela D. Wilson: We often talk about being thankful and having gratitude for the small things. Being thankful helps us increase positive emotions and reduce feelings of depression. Also, finding activities that make us feel calm is another way to manage being tired of caring for elderly parents and spouses. Adult coloring books are a trend. Crafts can be an enjoyable hobby. Taking an evening walk outside in nature, soaking in a bubble bath. Make a routine of doing activities that calm and relax you. Make the time for you, and just do it.
44:45 Pamela D. Wilson: Giving up time for self-care happens when caregivers become stressed and worry about not having enough time to get it all done. Caregivers who previously exercised stop exercising. Healthy eating turns into driving through fast food restaurants. Drinking water turns into sodas or alcohol. When we become stressed, instead of giving up our good habits, we need to remain lean and mean to fight all the stress and the health issues that we experience as caregivers. Caregiver exhaustion can also result in us thinking negatively. We might view situations as catastrophic, much worse or more severe than they really are.
45:36 Pamela D. Wilson: Stress short circuits our brains and makes us less resilient and less able to bounce back from unexpected or stressful situations. Feeling overwhelmed can make us want to withdraw. Which is the opposite of what we should do as a caregiver especially with our spouses or our loved ones who want our time and our attention. Being present is essential. Sharing how we feel stressed with our partners is also important as is sharing how our partners who are stressed make us feel. We want to do this in a positive manner though, not a blaming manner. For example, you can say something like, “Well when you’re stressed, you sometimes say X or you do Y. This makes me feel more stressed and when you’re stressed, I’m stressed.”
46:22 Pamela D. Wilson: The more that we support each other in our marital and our partner relationships, the less harmful feeling exhausted or stressed will be to our relationships. While we may be caregivers for elderly parents, the relationships that we have with our spouses and our children are more important. Caring for elderly parents does have a negative effect on many aspects of a caregiver’s life. And we have to account for that. It affects our health and our well-being.
46:52 Pamela D. Wilson: I know that you hear me say this frequently but here are some statistics to support this fact. According to an article by Shultz in JAMA, caregivers have a 63% higher mortality rate versus non-caregivers. According to a Stanford University study, 40% of Alzheimer’s caregivers die before the person for whom they care. Other statistics have a 30% rate for caregivers dying before the person for whom they care. The effects of caregiver exhaustion, the effects of being tired of caring for elderly parents and spouses, these are real, not emotion, but facts.
47:29 Pamela D. Wilson: Making time for positive moments must be another priority for couples. We talked about this on The Caring Generation program called “Being in the Sandwich Generation.” Even if couple of time is sitting on the couch, watching a television program, going on a walk together after dinner or doing dishes, doing these helps us stay connected and not divided when caring for elderly parents becomes stressful.
47:54 Pamela D. Wilson: Here’s a sneak peak of an upcoming show: Medications for depression, dementia, and anxiety are controversial. Dr. Neha Jain, a geriatrician from the University of Connecticut, John Dempsey Hospital in Farmington, Connecticut joins us on our next show for the truth about medications for the elderly. I’m Pamela D. Wilson, your host, you are listening to The Caring Generation live from the BBM Global Network, Channel 100 and TuneIn radio. Catch the podcast replays on my website, PamelaDWilson.com. Stay with me. We’ll be right back after this break.
51:35 Pamela D. Wilson: This is Pamela D. Wilson caregiving expert. I’m your host. You’re listening to The Caring Generation radio program for caregivers and aging adults coming to you live from the BBM global network Channel 100 and TuneIn radio. Please share The Caring Generation with family, friends, co-workers, businesses where you work, social groups and churches, so that we can make caregiving something we talk about. Helpful information is on my website at PamelaDWilson.com. Let’s continue our conversation about caregiver exhaustion. Being tired of caring for elderly parents and spouses.
52:20 Pamela D. Wilson: Being a caregiver or needing care are a combination of the most stressful events in life. Exactly the reason for caregivers to create a go-to routine for positive habits and self-care. The most stressful events in life include death. Many of the people that we care for will eventually die. Marriages become stressed because of caregiving for one set or two sets of elderly parents. We worry about health and illness, and family relationships can become strained.
52:54 Pamela D. Wilson: Being fired at work or having work problems are another stressful event in life because of being a caregiver. Add to this, early retirement that might happen from mid-life health issues. More about women, disability, and mid-life health issues are on The Caring Generation radio program called “Managing Work-Life Balance and Health.” Go on my website, go to the media tab and then The Caring Generation radio program where you’ll find all of the past podcasts of The Caring Generation. On the subject of early retirement due to mid-life health issues we also have the stressful event of having or managing injuries or illness.
53:31 Pamela D. Wilson: As we age, it’s easier for us to become injured, or diagnosed with health conditions. I wish this was true or wasn’t true, but it is. I was talking to a doctor this past week and we were laughing about experiencing falls. You might think that laughing about falling is an odd subject. The doctor fell on ice on her hip. I fell on the ice on my elbow. We were both laughing about doing range of motion exercises right after we fell to make sure that we didn’t break any bones. I know this is kind of healthcare humor, but it does show that even healthy people have silly accidents that can be serious and result in fractures.
54:11 Pamela D. Wilson: We spend more time–or we should spend more time–attending to our own health to make sure that we can take care of our families. It’s likely we will spend time managing the health of an elderly parent, a spouse, or a person for whom we provide care. Managing health is a caregiving responsibility. One more stressful event is gaining a new family member. While many people might think of having a new family member as having a baby, gaining a new family member could be the time and intensity of caring for an elderly parent or having an elderly parent move into your home. As you can see, caring for an elderly parent, a spouse, or another family member is a combination of life’s most stressful events.
54:54 Pamela D. Wilson: It’s essential not to be that person who waits too long to get help. It’s essential not to be the person who says, “Oh, it wasn’t that bad until today.” Because by the time you arrive at, “It wasn’t that bad until today,” you’re at the point of caregiver exhaustion, being tired of caring for elderly parents. Listeners, I thank you all for being so proactive and interested in caregiving, health, and well-being. Thank you for everything that you do every day, every week, as a caregiver in helping others. I know that many of you listening work in professional caregiving positions. Your loved ones and the patients you care for need your time and attention. Please share this program with others seeking help and support. Thank you for joining me on The Caring Generation coming to you live from the BBM Global Network Channel 100 in TuneIn radio. I’m Pamela D. Wilson, I look forward to being with you again next Wednesday evening. God bless you all. Sleep well tonight and have a fabulous day tomorrow, and a great week until we are together again.
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