“Caregiving often calls us to lean into love, we didn’t know possible.” It is obvious that caregiving is an awesome thing where one cares about others in such a brilliant way that he or she feels rewarded for the work he or she does. However, there is a saying; “Caregivers are often the casualtics, the hidden victims. No one sees the sacrifice they make.” Caregiving is rewarding, but is very stressful. In this article we will know about what the stress of caregiving is, its signs and symptoms and some of the preventive measures or ways to manage the stress of caregiving. It would really benefit you if you or any of your loved ones is a caregiver.
What is Stress Of Caregiving?
A person who provides care for another person in need; like a child, an aging parent, a wife or husband, a friend, a relative or a neighbor, is a caregiver. Such caregivers are known as informal caregivers or family caregivers. Apart from this, a caregiver may also be a paid professional who offers care in the home or at a place that is not the person’s home. A caregiver provides care on a regular basis for another person with an illness, injury or any disability. Caregivers have to help the patient with their daily tasks like eating, bathing, taking medicine etc.
Now, this caregiving job is really stressful. And the stress of caregiving is because of the emotional and physical strain of caregiving. It is reported that caregivers have much higher levels of stress than individuals who are not caregivers. While caregiving the patient, caregivers have very less time for taking care of self and thus may suffer from stress of caregiving.
Remember, if you are a caregiver then you first need to take care of yourself so that you will be able to care for your loved ones or your clients you work professionally for. So, first find out the signs and symptoms of stress of caregiving here. This will help you to take steps further in improving your well being.
What are the Signs & Symptoms of Stress from Caregiving?
A stress of caregiver can take many forms. For example, a caregiver may feel frustrated and angry one minute and helpless in the next moment. A caregiver may make mistakes while giving medicines or you may turn to some unhealthy behaviours, such as drinking or smoking. Some other signs and symptoms which indicate that the caregiver is under stress include the following:
- Feeling alone, isolated or deserted by others.
- Feeling overwhelmed.
- Sleeping very less or sleeping too much.
- Gaining too much or weight or losing weight in excess.
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy earlier.
- Feeling tired most of the time.
- Feeling too much worried or sad.
- Getting easily irritated or angered.
- Having serious headaches or body aches too often.
How Can Stress of Caregiving Affect Your Health?
It is true that some stress can be good for you, as it aids you cope and respond to a change or challenge. However, long-term stress of any kind, including the stress of caregiving, can lead to serious health issues. Below are some of the ways how the stress of caregiving can actually affect your health.
Depression & Anxiety from Caregiving
Women who are caregivers are more likely than men to develop signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression caused by stress of caregiving. These problems also increase your risk for other health problems like heart disease and stroke.
Obesity caused by Stress of Caregiving
Weak Immune System due to Stress of Caregiving
Stress of caregiving can also weaken your immune system and you may suffer from frequent cold and flu and other infections. A weak immune system can also make vaccines like flu shots less effective. It may also take longer to recover from any surgery (if undergone).
A Caregiver can be at Higher Risk For Chronic Diseases
There is a great chance that a caregiver suffering from stress of caregiving has higher tendency and increased risk of suffering from chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, cancer or arthritis.
A Caregiver can Experience Problems With Short-Term memory Or Concentration
Caregivers of spouses with Alzheimer’s disease are at higher risk for problems like short-term memory and concentration.
What are the Ways To Prevent Stress Of Caregiving or Ways To Deal With It?
In order to help manage the stress of caregiving, you need to keep the following points in mind.
Accept Help When Caregiving: Be prepared with a list of several ways others can help you, and let the helper choose with what she or he would like to do in caregiving of the patient. For instance, a person might be willing to take the person you care for on a walk twice in a week. Some other helper might offer to pick up groceries or even cook for you. Accepting help from others relieves the burden and stress of caregiving.
Set Realistic Goals: You need to set realistic goals when you are responsible for others. Break large tasks in to smaller steps that can be done one at a time. A caregiver should prioritize, prepare lists and establish a daily routine when you are caregiving. Begin to say no to requests that are draining, such as hosting holiday meals. Setting reachable goals go a long way to combat the stress of caregiving.
Focus On What You Are Able To Offer: It is obvious that you might feel guilty sometimes. However, understand that no one here is perfect and there is no perfect caregiver too. Believe that you are doing the best of your part for the patient and making the best decisions you can at any given time. Focus on what you are able to provide for your loved one so that you can care for them without undergoing the stress of caregiving.
Get Connected with Caregiving Resources: Get connected! Find out about the various caregiving resources in your community to alleviate your stress of caregiving. Many communities have classes, specifically about the disease your loved one might be facing. Caregiving services like transportation and meal delivery may be available.
Seek Social Support While Caregiving: It is very important to seek social support if you are dealing with the stress of caregiving. Make an effort to remain connected with family and friends who can offer emotional and nonjudgmental support. Set aside time each week for connecting with them.
Join A Support Group: A support group can offer validation and encouragement to the caregiver and also provide problem-solving strategies for difficult situations. People in support groups actually understand what you may be going through your phase of caregiving. A support group can also be a good place to create meaningful friendships that you really require if you are dealing with the stress of caregiving.
Set Personal Goals For Your Own Health: You must set personal health goals for yourself as well when you are providing care for others. For example, set a goal to establish good sleep routine or to find time to exercise or be physically active on most days of the week. It is very important for you to fuel your body with healthy foods and plenty of clean water, as the job of caregiving can easily drain your energy.
A Caregiver Consult His/Her Doctor Regularly: If you are a caregiver, you need to get recommended immunizations and screening. Be sure that you are informing your doctor that you are a caregiver. Do not hesitate to mention any concerns or signs and symptoms you have because of stress of caregiving.
Go For Respite Care: It may be hard for you to leave your loved one in someone else’s care. However, you need to take a break at times, as this could be one of the best things you can do for yourself in order to prevent or manage stress of caregiving. Most communities have some type of respite care available, like the following.
- In-home Respite: Health care aides come to your house for providing companionship, nursing services or both. This would help you a lot in managing your stress from caregiving.
- Adult Care Centers and Programs: Some centers offer care for both older adults and young children and the two groups may spend enough time together.
- Short-Term Nursing Homes: There are some assisted living homes, memory care homes and nursing homes that accept people requiring care for short stays, while their caregivers are away or on a break. You can look for such nursing homes.
- Take Break From Your Job, If You Work Outside The Home: Nearly 60% of caregivers work outside of their home. In case you work outside the home and are feeling overwhelmed or finding signs or symptoms of stress of caregiving, it is time for you to take a break from your job. Ask you HR department about options for unpaid leave.
Now we know about the stress of caregiving and also ways to prevent it. If you are having a hard time in your caregiving chores, feel isolated or depressed and want real help, then do consult with your doctor and do consult with local caregivers who can take on your caregiving work for some days while you are on a break from the task of caregiving. Reach out to family, friends and spend enough time on yourself so as to keep your health in a good condition. Remember, “You are not alone!”
“Self-Care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”