Take care of yourself: It’s easy to become overwhelmed when caring for someone else, but it’s crucial to prioritize your own physical and mental health. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly. This will help you feel more energized and better able to handle the demands of caregiving.
With all that’s going on in our country, our economy, the world, and on social media, it feels like so many of us are under a great deal of stress. Caring for elderly or aging parents can be particularly stress-inducing. We know chronic stress can be as unhealthy as smoking a quarter of a pack a day. What are stress management strategies that people use to become “Stress-Proof? What are some great tweaks, hacks, and tips that help reduce or even eliminate stress when caring for our aging parents? In this interview series, we are talking to authors, and mental health experts, who can share their strategies for reducing or eliminating stress. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Yelena Sokolsky.
Yelena Sokolsky is a Career Registered Professional Nurse-Entrepreneur who impacted lives of members in the community since 2006.
Yelena is currently an Owner/Administrator/Director of Patient services with Galaxy Home Care, an NYC-based home care agency. Prior to starting Galaxy Home Care in 2021, Yelena served as a Director of Patient services for a large, established home care company with thousands of patients and caregivers. Yelena also has an extensive experience as a VP of Operations with major Medicare-certified home health care agencies.
Yelena holds a Bachelor of Science Nursing degree and a Bachelor of Arts Psychology degree.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!
I am a registered nurse with over 18 years of experience in home care. I first realized the importance of home care when I had to take care of her parents and grandparents. As a family of immigrants, it started with bridging the language barrier. That eventually led to a life in home care. Growing up, I was always interested in working with and for families. I was completely responsible for my grandparents and due to the language barrier, I was always helping them set up services. I was responsible for making sure their Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, home health aides — all of that — were taken care of. This industry and role came naturally to me.
None of us are able to experience success without support along the way. Is there a particular person for whom you are grateful because of the support they gave you to grow you from “there to here?” Can you share that story and why you are grateful for them?
Our management team and staff bring decades of home health care experience to our firm. They enable me every day to provide the full range of in-home care services to individuals and families. It is my goal to improve the quality of life for our clients and their families, but I wouldn’t be able to lead such an incredible company without this team.
Ok, thank you for sharing your inspired life. Let’s now talk about stress. How would you define stress?
Depression and anxiety are exacerbated by loneliness and a sense of isolation from others. If a person feels that they don’t have anyone to rely on, they start experiencing higher levels of stress and agitation. The need for socialization is high, so even simply talking to someone can improve one’s mood. Regular communication and relationship-building should be a priority.
In the Western world, humans typically have their shelter, food, and survival needs met. So what has led to this chronic stress? Why are so many of us always stressed out?
I’ll give an example that relates to our industry. Continual exposure to stress can lead to both physical and emotional exhaustion, taking a toll on individuals’ mental and physical well-being. While some people had the privilege of working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, front-line workers and caregivers did not have that luxury. They had to continue making visits to clients, putting themselves at risk of contracting the virus and spreading it to others. The fear and insecurity that they experienced on a daily basis cannot be understated. The shortage of personal protective equipment and unreliable guidance from authorities only added to their stress levels, making their job even more challenging.
What are some of the physical manifestations of being under a lot of stress? How does the human body react to stress?
Stress triggers the release of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which increase heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. While this is helpful in short bursts, chronic stress can have negative physical effects such as muscle tension and pain, headaches, digestive issues, insomnia, high blood pressure, weakened immune system, and more. Chronic stress can make these physical responses harmful to the body, leading to various health problems. It is essential to manage stress levels effectively to prevent these negative effects.
Is stress necessarily a bad thing? Can stress ever be good for us?
While chronic or overwhelming stress can have negative effects on our physical and mental health, some level of stress can be beneficial and even necessary for growth and development. Stress is the body’s natural response to challenging situations, and it can help us stay alert and focused, improve our performance, and enhance our ability to cope with future stressors. For example, stress can motivate us to work harder and achieve our goals, push us out of our comfort zones, and help us develop resilience and adaptability.
The key is finding a balance between stress and relaxation. Too much stress can have negative effects, but too little stress can lead to boredom, apathy, and a lack of motivation. By managing stress levels effectively and developing healthy coping mechanisms, we can harness the benefits of stress while minimizing its negative effects. In short, stress can be both good and bad for us, depending on how we respond to it.
Let’s now focus more on the stress of caring for elderly or aging parents. This feels intuitive, but it is helpful to spell it out in order to address it. Can you help articulate a few reasons why caring for our aging parents can be so stressful?
Caregiving can be a fulfilling career, but it can also be emotionally and physically taxing, leading to burnout. Burnout can be caused by a range of factors, including unfair treatment, unclear job expectations, poor communication from management, and unrealistic time frames. Stress is often a significant contributor to burnout, which can have serious consequences for both the caregiver and the patients they serve. Burnout can impact a caregiver’s performance and the quality of care they provide, increasing the risk of mistakes that can be life-threatening for patients.
Can you share with our readers your “5 Things You Can Do To Reduce Stress When Caring For Your Elderly Or Aging Parents”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
- Take care of yourself: It’s easy to become overwhelmed when caring for someone else, but it’s crucial to prioritize your own physical and mental health. Make sure to get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly. This will help you feel more energized and better able to handle the demands of caregiving.
- Build a support network: Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Reach out to family, friends, or local support groups to share the burden of caregiving. This can also provide emotional support and help you feel less isolated.
- Set realistic expectations: Caregiving can be emotionally and physically demanding, and it’s important to set realistic expectations for yourself and your loved one. Don’t feel guilty about asking for help or taking breaks when you need them.
- Create a routine: Establishing a consistent routine can help reduce stress and create a sense of predictability for both you and your loved one. This can include regular meal times, exercise routines, and medication schedules.
- Stay organized: Keeping track of appointments, medications, and other caregiving tasks can be overwhelming. A planner, calendar, or mobile app can help you stay organized and reduce stress.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Caregiver burnout is now officially recognized as a chronic stress disorder characterized by extreme physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. It is associated with a number of health risks, and it is affecting more caregivers than ever before. In fact, according to the AARP’s Caregiving in the US 2020 report, nearly one-quarter (23%) of all family caregivers now report that “caregiving has made their health worse.”
I’d like to support those who are helping others, and provide them with the resources they need to continue serving the elderly community who set the stage for our generation.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
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This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.