Dealing with Caregiver Stress
Caregivers come in many forms. You may be an adult child caring for a parent, a parent caring for a child, or a friend caring for a friend. They all have one thing in common – stress. “There are more than 50 million people in the United States caring for loved ones 18 years of age or older. And there are at least another 10 million caring for loved ones with special needs, younger than 18.”(1) Caregiving or being cared for is inevitable, but ruining your health does not have to be a side effect of caregiving. Although caregiving can be challenging it can be very rewarding too. Not handling caregivers stress can take its toll on the caregiver, results can be traumatic resulting in fatigue, illness and even death. Caregiving is a physical and emotional strain but there are ways to reduce that stress and enjoy the caregiving process.
Taking care of yourself is the first step in being an effective caregiver. Be aware if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Feeling overwhelmed and irritable
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Feeling “depressed”
- Gaining or losing a lot of weight
- Losing interest in activities you use to enjoy
- Getting sick often
- Getting angry often
- Feeling guilty all of the time
- Experiencing an inability to concentrate
- Having frequent thoughts of harming yourself or others
These are some tale tale signs that you are under a great deal of stress. “Rough statistics show that 30% of caregivers die before those they are caring for. Some studies show even higher percentage of caregiver deaths. Illness that doesn’t lead to death is rampant, as well with depression and auto-immune diseases being high on the list. Caregivers often don’t find time to go to their own doctor appointments. They put them off, because they are too busy, or are just plain sick of sitting in clinics with their loved ones. Then things like breast cancer, which could be caught at an early stage, aren’t found until the illness is much worse or even life threatening.” (2)
A little help with the caregiving process or with your chores can be just the ticket you need to deal with the stress. First, accept help. Don’t feel that you need to “do it all,” allow others to pitch in with caregiving. Others may not do things the way you do it, but in the scheme of things your loved one is being cared for, allowing them to feel important too. When they offer to help, have a list of ways that would help to relive your stress. Men are not exempt from the caregiving role. Involve as many family members and friends as possible to lessen the burden for everyone.
Guilt plays a role in caregiving which leads to stress. Don’t allow others to make you feel guilty for what you do and don’t do. Guilt is a normal process of the caregiving process, but none of us do everything perfectly all the time. Give yourself a break if the dishes are not washed or the floor is not swept. Those things can wait, or ask for help. Mend fences to get the help you need. Allow all family members to be part of the process.
Information can help to decrease stress. Find ways to get “time off” from caregiving by looking into Adult Day Care Centers or Home Health assistance. Knowing what resources are out there to help ease your burden and provide respite can be just the stress buster you need.
Have conversations with family members early to decide what the best caregiving opportunities that would best suit your needs. This will help the caregiver and the one being cared for. Open discussion is the best example for your children to experience the process if they need to become caregivers later in life. It also allows the one being cared for to be the care partner, being part of the process.
Take care of yourself too. Join a support group, do regular exercise, get plenty of rest, eat a good diet, feed your soul with spiritual activities, schedule in respite times for you and allow yourself time to grieve. It is hard to stay strong all the time and it is OK to have the down time alone or with a friend. And last, do not neglect your own health concerns, visit your doctor regularly or as needed to continue good health.
The best medicine for stress is laughter. Make sure that you allow yourself and the one you are caring for time to laugh every day. Situations can be serious, but providing levity in the daily situations can lighten the load and be healing too. “Laughter actually reduces the levels of chronic stress in you body and enhances your lifespan, boost immune system function, protects you nervous system and your sanity, and gives your endocrine system a much-needed rest.” (3)
Caregiving can be a stressful job, but with the right attitude and some helpful tools it can be one of life’s most rewarding adventures you will be involved in throughout your life, and provide memories that are priceless.
(1). (©2004 National Family Caregivers Association and the National Alliance for Caregiving1)
(2). ©2011 AgingCare, LLC All rights reserved. The material of this web site is provided for informational purposes only. AgingCare.com does not provide medical advice,
(3) http://www.naturalnews.com/007551.html#ixzz1eMeQDvK5 This site is part of the Natural News Network © 2011
Debbie Ann Scott, MS in Gerontology
A Grace Place, Adult Care Center