Stress Management and Alzheimer Caregiver Stress
If you’re like many people with Alzheimer caregiver stress, it means you’re either the adult child or the spouse of a loved one with this devastating disease. Like many other people in your position you probably worry, “What happens if I become critically ill or succumb to heart attacks, strokes or maybe cancer?” For many people with these medical conditions (including influenza, diabetes, cancer, etc.) stress played a large role in their circumstance.
An in-depth analysis can be found at www.caregiverrelief.com
Alzheimer Caregiver Stress Is Chronic Stress.
First, let’s look at chronic stress. Alzheimer caregiving stress, for example, is considered chronic stress because it’s the result of constant exposure to circumstances and conditions often beyond your control that cause a hyper-alert state. You’re frequently dealing with unpredictable and/or volatile situations and irrational behavior. To compound the problem it’s often without reliable recourse that is dependable and consistent. Living under such trying, emotional pressure has long-term effects on your mental health, with ailments like clinical depression. But it also has bearing on your physical heath. In fact, the past 20 years of research shows that people who suffer from chronic stress, like caregiver stress, are at much greater risk FOR heart attacks, strokes, and even cancer than others in their age bracket.
In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, 50% of caregivers die before the person they are caring for. It’s theorized that chronic stress, which weakens the physical body, (and dampens the immune system) is one the main culprits for this high mortality rate. What Happens Physically During Caregiver Stress? First realize that stress is not an emotional state, but rather a physiological reaction that occurs in your body. Doctors refer to it as the hypothalamic pituitary axis; the connection between the hypothalamus, pituitary and the adrenal gland. These three ‘elements’ work together in a stressful situation to put the body into a heightened state of preparation to overcome a potentially life threatening event.
This stress reaction is actually a left over from a survival mechanism called, “Fight or Flight.” When faced with tremendous stress, where survival might hang in the balance, humans have one of two instant reactions – run from the situation (flight) or meet the challenge head-on (fight). How a person reacts will differ from one to the next. But the thing that is consistent is the hypothalamic pituitary axis (HPA) itself. Everyone has the HPA and it regulates:
• Blood Pressure
• Heart Rate
• Body Temperature
• Sleep Patterns
• Hunger and Thirst
• Among many other activities
When stress becomes great, the HPA system takes over in a matter of seconds. Blood circulation is diverted from the extremities to internal organs. Adrenaline is secreted in massive amounts for instant energy. The adrenal gland starts producing and releasing steroid hormones, including the primary stress hormone cortisol. This hormone travels to all areas including the heart, lungs, circulation, metabolism, immune systems and skin.
Now, if a bear in the wild (or a thug on a street city corner) attacks you, then this HPA system can literally be a lifesaver. But here’s the problem as it relates to Alzheimer caregiver stress… When stress is routine, so is this constant biochemical release that, over time, actually harms the body in various ways such as:
• Decreased immune system
• Greater chance for infection and disease
• Digestive tract problems like ulcers
• Lung problems like asthma
• Heart disease, which causes strokes and heart attacks
The HPA system is an intelligent design within the human race. The problem is it doesn’t automatically distinguish caregiver stress that is continuous, day after day, from a bear attack, which is temporary. That means the stress that caregivers endure is chronic, and therefore, more debilitating to the human body. The good news is there are ways to combat its effects.
It’s called stress management.
How Does Stress Management Help with Alzheimer caregiver stress? Good question! And that’s the main purpose of my website http://www.caregiverrelief.com, because caregiver stress is practically unavoidable. But what we can do is minimize it as much as possible. There are two ways to do that:
1. Seek out and learn about as many services, programs and products as possible. Armed and educated, we can choose the ones that will save us money, or save us work, or help us be better at what we do for our loved one.
2. Find ways to lessen our remaining stress, turn off that HPA system, enjoy life, and find better ways to cope. Proven relaxation techniques include: • Guided Imagery • Meditation & Prayer • Utilizing Adult Day Care • Asking Friends and Relatives for help • Listening to Music • Going to the Movies • Humor • Massage Therapy • Going for a Walk • Exercise The bottom line is simple…if you don’t accept help or address your stress your HPA system will tear down your body. With 50% of all caregivers dying before those they care for, it’s important that as caregivers you make sure that care includes yourself too. If you end up as one of the 50%, you won’t be there for your loved one; therefore defeating your original commitment to your loved one. So always take some time to focus on you. That’s why at http://www.caregiverrelief.com you will find guided imagery CD’s, prayers, inspirational quotes and links to other sites that are humorous or relaxing. They’re all designed to help you – the caregiver. Most of all, for lasting results, we recommend guided imagery. But be sure to visit our other pages as well since you’ll find options for hands-on training and guidance in reliving your Alzheimer caregiver stress.
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