Support volunteers often hear through emails, phone calls, support groups, and forums, caregivers express the need for relief or the opportunity to "get away!" Caring for loved ones with LBD is can be a full-time job and be very difficult. It is important for caregivers to take the time to care for themselves. Time away is not always available, but there are you share with caregivers who are "having one of those days."
Read Something Funny
Laughter has been shown to trigger the relaxation response, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and even boost the immune system and ease pain. It might seem corny to dive into a comic book collection, a joke book, or a few minutes of America's Funniest Home Videos, but the effects are real.
Not finding the funnies very funny today? Try forcing a smile. The simple act of turning your facial muscles into a smile triggers the brain to initiate a relaxation response. Bonus: Smiling tends to inspire others to smile (not unlike yawns inspiring yawns). So your smile might make your loved one a little easier to live with.
Crank the Volume
Music therapy is often used to calm or stimulate dementia patients, but it can have similar effects on anyone. Playing music with a strong beat has an energizing effect. Melodic orchestral or acoustic tunes can improve thinking and focus.
To get the full pick-me-up effect, raise the volume so that the music fills the room. Really listen. Create a few special playlists that you label by mood so you can match the tunes to your needs: "Happy music," "Energy kick-start," "Dance favorites."
Take a Power Nap
Ten minutes of shut-eye might not sound like much, but it can be enough to feel restorative, especially if you've had a disrupted night's sleep. Midafternoon rest, when the body clock is at a natural lull, is thought to be especially productive.
A longer, 30- to 60-minute nap allows you to fall into the deep stage of sleep that's even more restorative, but it's harder to wake from. If you only have a short break, set a timer or alarm clock, so you don't oversleep.
Pump a Little Iron
Lifting free weights tones your arms and strengthens your bones—but those are long-term extras on top of the energy boost this simple (and not too sweaty) workout provides. If you've never used a handheld weight, start with two- or three-pound dumbbells, sold at sporting goods stores or large variety stores such as Wal-Mart or Target. Lift the weights in sets of 8 to 10 slow repetitions, increasing the amount of the weight over time.
Any quick exercise can have the same effect: running through a few yoga poses, stretching, walking around the block if you can get out of the house, going up and down the stairs a few times.
Write a Letter
Simmering resentment, anger, or frustration can sap energy. Psychologists sometimes use this tool to help people let go of energy-blocking ruminations: Write a letter to yourself or your loved one. Put in everything you're feeling. Describe specific incidents. Imagine what you wish had happened instead, or what you wish for in general. (More "thank-you's" and appreciation? More free time? Your old pre-caregiving life back?)
The act of putting your true emotions down on paper (or in an e-mail you don't send) helps your body release them, just the way you feel better after confiding in a friend. Then, when you're done, rip up the pages or delete that e-mail.
Source: Paula Spencer Scott. Five 10-Minute Pick-Me-ups for Caregiver Stress. Caring.com. 2014.
Did You Know?
Did you know that in 2013, over 500 caregivers were served through the LBD Caregiver Link, LBDA’s national hotline and email support service? Hundreds of others were helped through our support group network. Are you interested in helping others? You can help those living with LBD and those who are caring for them. If you can spare a small amount of time each month, we would love to have you as a member of our volunteer corps. For more information, please contact LaToysa Scaife-Rooks, LBDA Volunteer and Family Services Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.