If you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, or are experiencing increased stress symptoms while taking care of a chronically ill spouse or elderly parent, you may be feeling the effects of caregiver stress… Caregiver Stress is very common and often caregivers don’t realize how much stress they are coping with while providing care for their loved one. There are many different causes for caregiver stress. Some of the causes may be:
- Fear or Uncertainty due to the serious nature or the disease and or decline in health and independence of the individual you are caring for. There may be uncertainty as to how to proceed. Being in the position of being a caregiver usually carries some heavy responsibility and sometimes-scary situations and decision making.
- Shift in Roles: If you’re caring for an elderly parent, it can be difficult to see someone who’s traditionally been in the role of caring for you to be now in need of help. It may be difficult to see your loved one in such a vulnerable position, and it’s often hard for those needing care to be feeling so helpless. This can take a toll on all parties involved.
- Demands of Constant Care: Many caregivers find themselves giving round-the-clock care, or spending virtually every free moment attending to the needs of their loved one. Others find that their responsibilities are less constant, but never know if they’ll be needed at one particular moment or the next, so they feel like they need to be constantly available. The feeling of being “always on duty” can take a heavy toll on a caregiver.
- Isolation: When dealing with the needs of someone who requires constant care, a caregiver can feel isolated from the rest of the world. Whether you’re in a position where it’s unsafe to leave your loved one alone, or even if they just get lonely when you leave, you may find yourself much more tied to the house than before, which can make it more difficult for you to get exercise, connect with others, and do the things that help you take stress off.
- Little Time Alone: While caregivers may feel isolated from others, it’s also common to have very little time alone. The need for solitude is very real for most people, and the stress of getting little time alone can feel confusing for someone who also feels isolated, but both feelings can coexist with caregivers, causing their stress to multiply.
- Guilt: Sometimes the responsibility and feelings of isolation can be overwhelming, and caregivers feel burned-out. Sometimes feelings of guilt accompany such feelings, as though they’re a sign of disloyalty. Feelings of frustration are understandable, but guilt is still common.
- Exhaustion: Caregivers often become overwhelmed with exhaustion due to trying to juggle all of the needs and expectations of caring for their loved one often while trying to manage other areas of their personal life as well. Strain of trying to be a parent while also a caregiver and a spouse can be exhausting when trying to fulfill all expectations.
- Frequent Illness: Caregivers often find themselves being sick more frequently due to not caring for themselves. Often not eating right, lack of sleep, stress, muscle strain or pulls, and other health issues develop.
These are just a few of the stressors that caregivers commonly feel, and many people may feel that their stress levels are excessive and that they must not be handling things as well as they should. If you feel that way, I hope the above list puts you at ease: You are facing significant pressures, and stress is a natural reaction. It is important though to understand the significant effect constant stress has on your overall health.
Some of the other health issues that may develop due to high stress levels include:
- Heart disease
- Higher level of stress hormones
- Decrease immunity
- Slower wound healing and infections
- Weight gain or loss
- Memory problems
- Decreased attention
- High blood pressure
- Dependence on alcohol or drugs including prescription medications
- Loss of interest in activitiesger Issues or yelling
If you are feeling overwhelmed and having difficulty handling the stressors of caring for your loved one it is important that you work to understand your stress and to find a healthy outlet for your stress. There are support and services available in the community to help.
Some services available to caregivers:
- Caregiver Support Groups
- Elder Service Agencies
- Hiring professional care givers
- Respite Care
Whatever you chose to do, make sure that you are allowing yourself time to separate yourself from your roll as a caregiver to provide yourself with time for yourself. Make sure to schedule time to manager your personal life, socialize with friends/family, taking a walk or exercising and do activities you enjoy doing, It is important to care of yourself and keep yourself healthy. If you do not care for yourself you will not be capable of providing the best care for your loved one.
If you or someone you know is struggling with Caregiver Stress please contact Heather Tamilio, LSW at Best Home Care. Heather will help guide you to the support and services that are available in your community. You may also click on the link below for a free In-Home Assessment where you can discuss care need. Hiring professionals for even just a few hours a week to allow the primary caregiver a break while knowing their loved on is in the care of a well trained and caring individual helps to relieve some of the burdens of care giving. At Best Home Care there are no minimum hours required for service.