Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital
Coping with Caregiver Stress
Many Veterans and their family members provide care for loved ones who are no longer able to care for themselves. Caregiving is a stressful job! It is important for caregivers to take care of themselves as well. Chronic stress associated with caregiving can lead to health problems. Fortunately, there are things Caregivers can do to maintain their emotional health.
Ask For Help: Caregivers often have a difficult time saying they need help. They may feel they need to be the strong one, taking care of other’s needs. But one of the best things a caregiver can do is to ask for help. There’s no shame in letting others know you need assistance. A great place to start is in your faith community, your neighborhood or social groups where you already have a connection to others. Having supportive people in one’s life can make all the difference in an emergency.
Reach Out to Social Contacts: A five-minute break to touch base with a caring friend, relative or neighbor will lift your spirits. Caregiving can feel lonely and isolating. Hearing the sound of others’ voices, reading their supportive words, or sharing thoughts with a kindred spirit requires only a short time in a busy caregiving day.
Get Some Respite: Respite means having someone stand in for you so that you can take a break. Stepping away from caregiving for even a few hours can help relieve stress and restore your sense of well-being. VA provides respite support for Veterans and their primary Caregivers enrolled in the new Caregiver program. VA respite options include: in-home respite; adult day programs; out-of-home respite at the VAMC; VA Community Living Centers, or assisted living communities.
Seek Out Support Groups: Your local VA Medical Center, churches, non-profit groups, community hospitals offer support groups specifically for Caregivers. Support groups are safe havens for exploring and expressing grief, fear, guilt, anger and loss, joys and sharing coping skills. They are also great places to exchange caregiving resources. A social worker or other professional often leads the group.
Care for the Caregiver: The VA offers a Caregiver Support Line (1-855-260-3274), which is a telephone education group that focuses on strategies to help you stay strong and maintain emotional balance. Call into the support line on Wednesday, December 16 at 6 pm or Wednesday, December 23 at 2 pm to participate in a group called Finding Comfort in the Healing Gifts of the Season. This is open to Family Caregivers of Veterans of all eras.
To learn more about VA Caregiver Support, visit: http://www.caregiver.va.gov/ or contact the Truman VA Caregiver Support Coordinators: Natalie Gough, LCSW (573-814-6000 ext. 52470) or Denise Heet, LCSW (573-814-6204).