Does Social Media Add to Caregiver Stress?

Does Social Media Add to Caregiver Stress?

Many people are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic by connecting with others on social media and spending more time online. While it’s a safe way to stay in touch with loved ones when you are trying to avoid large gatherings, there can be downsides. Social media platforms have become a leading source of misinformation and family disagreements. They can also lead to unrealistic expectations.

For a caregiver who might already be struggling with isolation and stress, it can be difficult to find a healthy balance for social media use. Let’s look at the pros and cons of social media and how to tell if you might be overdoing it.

The Benefits of Staying Active on Social Media

Some benefits of participating in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social channels include:

  • Staying informed: Social media makes it easy to keep up with your favorite organizations and groups. This is especially helpful if you are trying to limit the amount of time you spend in public or if you are a caregiver for a loved one who isn’t safe staying alone.
  • Sharing with loved ones: You’ll also find platforms like Facebook to be a good avenue for connecting with and sharing news, photos, and videos with loved ones.
  • Finding virtual events: The COVID-19 pandemic led to an increase in the number of virtual activities people can participate in. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are good places to find programs you can join.

These are just a few of the many advantages of social media. But it’s important to know about the disadvantages, too.

The Downside of Social Media

Unfortunately, the downside of social media platforms has become increasingly obvious and includes:

  • Spreading misinformation on important topics, such as the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and how to protect yourself from the virus
  • Arguing about politics and what is—or isn’t—credible news
  • Creating unrealistic goals, from how you look to the type of house you live in
  • Contributing to a sedentary lifestyle, the dangers of which are linked to as many health risks as smoking

How can you tell if your social media time is helping you feel less isolated or adding to your caregiver stress?

Here are a few tips to evaluate your social media use and see if it’s time to make adjustments.

Evaluating Social Media–Related Stress

If you are trying to assess whether your social media habits are helping you feel connected or having a negative impact on your well-being, here are a few factors to consider:

  • Time involved: How much time do you spend on social media each day? Staring at your computer or device screen for too many hours can harm your eyes. Spending too much time sitting can also negatively impact your health. You might need to track your time so you can objectively evaluate the situation.
  • Relationship changes: Are you fighting with friends and family you would never disagree with in person? Have your offline friendships been damaged by disagreements that started on a platform like Facebook? People often feel much freer to express their opinions online than they do in person. If you’ve seen your relationships suffer, it may be best to decrease your social media time.
  • Increased anxiety: There’s no disputing that social media can be a source of anxiety and stress for many. Facebook is often the worst. Pay attention to how you feel before you log on and after you log off of social media. Is there a change? That can be key to determining if you need to take a social media break.

If you aren’t ready to give up your social media interactions but need to reduce the stress it causes, pay attention to what is making you feel uncomfortable. Are certain family members cyberbullies? Are some organizations you follow causing you stress? Choosing not to follow them on social media may help you enjoy yourself online.

Reduce Caregiver Stress by Joining an Online Support Group

Another online resource for caregivers to consider joining is an online support group. It’s a good way to connect when the person you are caring for needs constant supervision or if you are limiting the time you spend in group gatherings. How to Connect with an Online Caregiver Support Group has tips to help you get started.

Helping a Parent Cope with Loss

Helping a Parent Cope with Loss

Dear Donna:

My dad passed away earlier this year and my mom is struggling. They were married almost 60 years, and she is having a difficult time coping with this loss. I don’t know what to do to help her. She is just lost without him.

I believe part of the challenge is that we lost him unexpectedly. He was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away within two weeks. We had no time to prepare ourselves for what we were about to experience.

Do you have any suggestions? With the holidays upon us, I’m sure the situation is about to get worse.

Kind regards,

Allyson in Holly, MI

Supporting a Grieving Parent

Dear Allyson:
I’d like to begin by expressing my condolences on the loss of your dad. While I know your concern is for your mother, it’s important to honor your own feelings and grief, too. Losing a parent is difficult at any age.

Since you asked for ideas to support your mother, I’ve pulled together some suggestions. Here are a few ways to help your mother cope with her loss:

  • Accept that grieving is essential for healing: The grieving process is hard work. Anger, sorrow, fear, guilt, and disbelief are common emotions those who are mourning experience. Watching someone you love work through this isn’t easy. But it’s important to remind yourself it is a necessary part of the healing process. Support your mother, but also realize how vital it is to give her time to work through these difficult emotions.
  • Talk about your dad together: Even the closest family members struggle with what to say when someone has experienced such a significant loss. You might be hesitant to bring up your father’s name for fear of upsetting your mother. But if you talk about him, it will give her permission to do the same without worrying she’s upsetting you. Sharing favorite memories and photos can be healing for both of you.
  • Refrain from setting unrealistic goals: Another mistake people make after losing a loved one is to set goals for processing grief. There is no set time frame for feeling “better” or packing up a lost family member’s belongings. Try to refrain from setting artificial and often unrealistic timelines. Unless you must make a decision or complete a task due to a firm deadline, do things when the two of you are ready. That includes cleaning out a loved one’s closet, canceling a cell phone, or selling a car. You’ll know when the time feels right.
  • Connect with a support group: Surviving spouses and adult children often say it is helpful to discuss their feelings with people who have experienced a similar loss. An in-person or virtual bereavement support group may help the two of you feel comfortable and understood as you are grieving. Hospice agencies usually offer them at a variety of times and locations, including online. Most don’t require your loved one to have been a patient for you to join.

One final suggestion is to consider talking with a therapist if you feel like your own grief or your mom’s is becoming too much to bear. Sites like Grieving.com and Grief in Common are good ones to explore if you need to find an experienced therapist.

I hope this information is helpful, Allyson. I wish you and your mother the best.

Kind regards,

Donna

Heritage Senior Communities

A family-owned senior living business for four generations, Heritage Senior Communities is experienced at helping older adults live their best quality of life. In our Michigan and Indiana communities, you will find experienced team members committed to the health and wellness of each resident we are privileged to serve. Call the community nearest you to schedule an in-person or virtual visit today!

Why Consider Memory Care for a Senior with Dementia

Why Consider Memory Care for a Senior with Dementia

Dear Donna:

I have been my uncle’s guardian for over a year now. He has Alzheimer’s disease and was starting to make some serious financial missteps. His electricity was turned off for failure to pay, but he also had significant credit with the gas company for repeatedly paying the same bill. Worst of all, he was the victim of a door-to-door scam that cost him a big chunk of his savings.

We set up systems so I can help manage his finances without causing his dignity to suffer. However, he is no longer safe at home alone due to the progression of his disease. I’m his only remaining family and am struggling to figure out how to keep him safe and improve his quality of life.

My uncle’s primary care doctor suggested I consider a memory care program. While I’m sure he would be safer, the idea of him feeling abandoned is tough to bear. Why is memory care a good solution for a family member?

Sincerely,

Steve in Grand Haven, MI

Ways Memory Care Programs Benefit Seniors with Alzheimer’s

Dear Steve:

It’s great to see that you are concerned not just about your uncle’s safety, but his quality of life, too. The unique challenges Alzheimer’s creates can make it more difficult for families to keep a loved one healthy and engaged with life. That’s where the support of experienced, professional caregivers can help.

A few benefits of memory care for adults with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia include:

  • Specialized caregivers: Seniors who have dementia have unique needs. That’s why caregivers who work with memory care residents undergo additional training. They learn best practices for communication, behavior modification, and early detection of potential problems. Team members in a memory care program also learn how to deescalate situations and manage tough behaviors, such as wandering and aggression.
  • Care planning: While a senior can still maintain a relationship with their preferred physicians, memory care programs also have a physician who works in conjunction with staff to create care plans for each resident. These plans help ensure seniors live their best quality of life, despite their disease.
  • Dedicated dining: Mealtimes can be a challenge when a senior has dementia. A loss of hand-eye coordination makes manipulating utensils tough for many. Vision changes create difficulty distinguishing food on the plate. A busy or cluttered dining space might cause restlessness and an inability to focus on eating. That might result in poor nutrition and weight loss. Memory care dining programs work around these challenges to create healthy meals.
  • Quality of life: The daily life enrichment activities and recreation therapy programs offered in memory care allow residents to feel productive. Common activities include art classes, visits from pets, music therapy, and low-impact fitness activities. Many memory care programs also have secure outdoor spaces for residents to enjoy nature walks, bird watching, or gardening in raised beds.
  • Family support: Alzheimer’s is often referred to as the “long goodbye” because the disease slowly robs a senior loved one of their abilities. Families watch helplessly as their loved one’s health declines. Memory care communities often host support group meetings and other activities to help families throughout this journey.

I hope this list gives you a better idea of the ways older adults benefit from a move to a memory care community. Wishing you and your uncle the best of luck. Please contact me or one of the Heritage Senior Communities near your home if have any additional questions!

Kind regards,

Donna

Practicing Self Care as a Caregiver

Practicing Self Care as a Caregiver

Dear Donna:

My aunt was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease several years ago. She was able to remain in her own home for a while, but she moved in with my husband and I almost two years ago. We are her only remaining family members and are happy to take care of her.

Shortly after my aunt came to live with us, I left my job. We felt like it wasn’t safe for her to stay alone, and it was the best decision at the time. It’s gotten tougher to keep up with her recently as she’s started to wander from home. My husband and I are both sleep deprived and tired. We need to figure out a better way to do this so we don’t put our own health at risk.

Do you have any suggestions for us that don’t involve moving my aunt somewhere else? We aren’t ready for that.

Gratefully,

Melissa in Grand Haven, MI

Care for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Dear Melissa:

We hear this question so often from family members who are caring for a loved one. It’s especially difficult when the senior has Alzheimer’s disease. The challenges of caregiving for someone with a memory impairment are unique and oftentimes demanding. For many caregivers, the role feels overwhelming when their family member begins wandering.

Because an estimated six in ten adults with Alzheimer’s will wander, it’s a situation many families find themselves in. Caregivers often say it feels like their loved one can go days without sleeping. Since it sounds like you might feel this way, I do have some advice on decreasing the risk for wandering. If you can first manage that difficult behavior, it might be easier to practice healthy self-care.

  • Structured days: People with memory loss often respond better to structured days. Experts recommend rising at the same time each morning, serving meals on a schedule, and having a consistent bedtime.
  • Meaningful activity: Boredom is believed to be a potential risk for wandering. If you plan productive, engaging activities for your aunt, she might feel more satisfied and be less likely to wander. Arts and craft projects, housework help, or moderate fitness activities are other good options.
  • Less evening stimulus: Try clustering your aunt’s outings and physical fitness to the early part of the day and wind down in the afternoon and evening. That may help promote sleep.
  • Helpful technology: If you don’t already have one, it might give you peace of mind to install a home security system with door sensors. You might sleep easier knowing an alarm will sound if your aunt tries to leave. Also consider providing her with a GPS tracking pendant or watch. In the event she does wander, you’ll be able to locate her quickly and easily.

It’s also important to take care of yourself while you are caring for your aunt. Family members often think self-care is a luxury they don’t have time for. Remind yourself that your aunt likely needs your help for a long time to come and protecting your own health is vital.

  • Connect with a support group: Whether it’s in person or online, support groups are a great outlet. Talking through your situation with peers who can relate will help. Other members might even recommend local caregiver resources you weren’t even aware of.
  • Eat healthy: Nutrition is a non-negotiable for your aunt, as well as for you and your husband. Fortunately, meal delivery services make that a little easier. Consider trying one for several meals a week and supplement with your own cooking in between. Cooking meals in batches and freezing them also makes mealtime easier.
  • Explore respite care options: Another recommendation is to explore local assisted living and memory care communities to see which ones offer respite. These short-term stays are designed to give caregivers a break. You could take advantage of this program once or twice a month to give you and your husband a break. Your aunt would receive the same care and support as a long-term resident of the community.

I hope these suggestions help make this time easier and healthier for your entire family!

Kind regards,

Donna

Respite Care at Heritage

With communities throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, Heritage is a leading provider of care for adults with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. That includes respite services. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more today!

Finding Balance When You Are an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Finding Balance When You Are an Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Caring for a senior who has Alzheimer’s disease can be rewarding. The hands-on role allows you to make a meaningful difference and provide emotional support. Taking your loved one to physician appointments, managing medications, and preparing meals help you feel confident they are receiving quality care.

The increasing demands of caregiving might make it tough to maintain your own mental and physical well-being. Back pain, headaches, stomach problems, and insomnia are a few of the most common medical issues caregivers report. Unfortunately, so are anxiety and depression.

Caregivers also experience guilt and fear wondering if they are meeting their loved one’s needs. This type of second-guessing can increase stress, something most caregivers already struggle to manage.

If this situation sounds familiar, it’s likely time to create a plan to regain a healthier sense of balance in your life. Here are a few steps you can take.

3 Ways to Restore Balance When You Are a Caregiver

  1. Take time off.

This might be tough for a dedicated caregiver, especially given the current coronavirus concerns. Taking regular breaks is essential for caregivers. Could another family member or friend stay with your senior loved one for a few hours each week? You will be a better caregiver if you are able to take time off on a regular basis.

If you don’t have anyone who can help, you might want to consider respite services through an in-home care agency. Depending on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in your area, your family member may be able to stay at a local memory care community a few days each month.

This has another benefit: allowing you to evaluate if the community is a good fit for your loved one should the need arise. Having a backup plan if you fall ill or are otherwise unable to care for your loved one can give you peace of mind.

  1. Connect with support.

Family members often feel a strong sense of duty when it comes to taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s. The idea of turning a loved one’s care over to someone else isn’t easy, especially when they may have limited verbal skills and memory loss. Talking your challenges through with peers who can relate will help.

Alzheimer’s support groups are hosted in a variety of places ranging from local churches to area senior centers and libraries. Another safe option is to connect with an online caregiver support group. This article will help you learn more, including how to find an online group to join.

  1. Engage in nurturing activities.

Engage in activities that boost your spirit on a regular basis. While it may feel like a luxury, spending even short amounts of time on hobbies or tasks that bring peace will make you a better caregiver.

Enjoy a few laughs over lunch or on a video chat with a friend. Take an art class online. Plant an indoor or outdoor herb garden. Meditation, Tai Chi, and yoga are also good ways to connect with your spirit.

Call Heritage with Questions about Dementia Care

If you think the time has come to start exploring memory care communities in Michigan or Indiana, or if you have questions about dementia care in general, we’ll be happy to help. Call a Heritage specialized dementia community today!