Changing lives, changing lifestyles
In this modern era we live in a fast-paced culture where change, and the pressure to react and accept change quickly, is a constant fact of life. Those who suffer from Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) have to cope with large physical and psychological changes. For most of us, becoming a caregiver to a person with kidney disease can be a stressful change. Caregivers are confronted not only with many challenging management problems but also with the “social death” of the patient as a person and their own “anticipatory grief”. Among others, they tend to consume high quantities of psychotropic medication themselves and to report many stress symptoms.
Coping with Stress
While it may not be possible to avoid the stressful situation of being a caregiver to someone with renal disease, we can learn to cope with stress in a healthy way. There are special challenges as the stress of CKD is usually amplified as a result of already present co-morbid conditions like diabetes or hypertension. In effect, care giving can be associated with emotional difficulties, such as depression, a variety of anxiety-related symptoms, excess medication use, a negative impact on perception of physical health and an impaired quality of life.
Caregiver Stresses and Issues
Caregivers, whether they are related to a patient or are professionals, may encounter many stresses and pressures in their care giving work. There are four types of signs of stress.
Cognitive Signs: These signs develop when the subject is having issues with perception – and objects of thought including all aspects of perceiving, thinking, and remembering. These may be-
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor judgment
- Anxious or racing thoughts
- Constant worrying
- Irritability or short temper
- Agitation, inability to relax
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Sense of loneliness and isolation
- Depression or general unhappiness
Physical Signs: These signs manifest as various forms of uneasiness or unwillingness to get involved in any type of physical activity and suffering from non-specific symptoms such as –
- Aches and pains
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Nausea, dizziness
- Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
- Loss of sex drive
- Frequent colds
Behavioural Signs: When actions, reactions of the person is jarred under normal or specified circumstances, behavioural signs such as the ones noted below persist –
- Eating more or less
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Isolating from others
- Procrastinating responsibilities
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
How does one manage stress?
Caregiver stress can be dealt with proactively or reactively. There are many positive ways to manage stress. Being a Caregiver requires stamina and good health. Taking care of you is essential to your own well-being. Let’s take a closer look at the following actions you can take now to “take care of YOU:”
ü Take care of your own health: Preventive health care like vaccinations and screenings, help you stay healthy and identify health problems early.
ü Eat healthy: Proper diet helps protect the Caregiver from stress, while poor nutrition can lead to lower immunity and disease.
ü Get enough sleep: Experts say we need to make sleep a priority and put it on our “to do” lists like any other important task.
ü Avoid Smoking and drinking: caregiver should avoid smoking and drinking. It may cause of maladaptive behaviour and leads to clinically significant impairment or distress.
Some Stress Relaxation Techniques
There are many stress relaxation techniques which caregiver can use it with their daily life chore.
- Muscle relaxation: You can do this by practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, rhythmic exercise, and yoga.
- Listening to soft music: Soft music can have a beneficial effect on our physiological functions, slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones.
- Massage therapy: Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. It is an effective treatment for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension.
- Pet Therapy or Pet ownership:Many studies proved that pets can improve the quality of life for those chronically ill.
- Active Social Life& Support Group: Keeping up social contacts helps a lot in staying well. 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. Yet, this regular contact maintains your social support network.
• Exercises: Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. You can also maintain your hobbies in outdoor game such as swimming, running, tennis, cycling and etc.
Simple ways you can practice mindfulness each day:
- Observe the things are going around you.
- Notice your body, focus on your breath, your thoughts, what and who is around you
- Do one thing at a time
- Redirect your attention to what is really happening now.
Taking care of an ill loved one can be a heavy burden especially when you have to support her/him emotionally and financially. If it’s too overwhelming for you, don’t be shy to seek for assistance or guidance from the doctors, counsellors, day care centre, relatives, friends or even your neighbours. You will feel more relief when responsibilities and tasks are shared.
Resources & References
- R.C. Carson, J.M. Butcher & S. Mineka (2004), ‘Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life’ Pearson Education (Singapore).