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5 Calming Techniques for Caregivers

When it begins to feel like too much, follow these simple tips

By Paula Spencer Scott

(Editor's note: This article originally appeared in

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While being a caregiver for an elderly loved one can be deeply rewarding, it can also be extremely stressful. During those moments when your nerves are frayed and your patience is wearing thin, there are some helpful techniques you can use to remove yourself from the situation and calm down. Sidestep letting strong feelings get the best of you by remembering to "give yourself five" when you're steaming. What's great about this little mantra is that it can take so many different forms:

1. You could take five (literal) steps back from the situation if your loved one with dementia has become belligerent.

2. Count to five before you answer if you're stuck in a cycle of repeated questions or comments.


3. Take five whole minutes to yourself (set a timer!) if you're just worn out. While you relax, put on a surefire calming television program or hand the person with dementia a favorite snack and leave the room (if you're sure he or she will be safe).

4. When you can't escape physically, imagine five nice things you'd do for yourself if you could. Sometimes just picturing a spa day or a chocolate cake in vivid detail is a tiny bit like experiencing the real thing.

5. Take five deep breaths: Inhale deeply through the nose, hold it for a count of five, then it let it out slowly through the mouth. Repeat five times. Nobody will notice you're stepping back from the edge of a cliff as you breathe.

Paula Spencer Scott
Paula Spencer Scott is the author of more than a dozen books, including Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers, a series of interactive journals and health/family guides with doctors at Harvard, UCLA and Duke. Her latest is When Your Aging Parent Needs Help with Dr. Leslie Kernisan. A longtime journalist and former Woman's Day columnist, she's also an Alzheimer's, caregiving, and brain-health educator.
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