Caring for a loved one can be one of the most challenging and stressful roles an individual can undertake.
While many individuals are unprepared to become caregivers, more than 1 in 5 Americans (21.3 percent) have become primary caregivers for a loved one over the last 12 months.
As a caregiver, it is natural to focus on the health of your loved one, but it is important to recognize when your own health is suffering, as too much stress can be harmful to both the caregiver and the loved one.
What is Caregiver Stress?
Caregiver stress is due to the emotional and physical strain of caregiving. Caregivers often report much higher stress levels than people who are not caregivers. Many caregivers provide assistance all day, leaving little time for themselves, and frequently feeling overwhelmed by the amount of care required.
Recognizing Signs of Caregiver Stress
By recognizing and addressing signs of caregiver stress, you can take healthy and manageable control over your caregiving duties. Signs of caregiver stress can include:
- Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
- Feeling exhausted
- Not getting enough sleep
- Weight fluctuation
- Becoming easily irritated or angry
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Frequent headaches, body aches, or other unusual physical problems
Preventing Caregiver Stress
Taking steps to help prevent caregiver stress allows caregivers to take better care of their loved ones and enjoy the rewards of caregiving.
Here are some steps you can take to help prevent caregiver stress:
- Ask for help. It’s not always easy to ask for help, even when you desperately need it.
- Take time for yourself on a daily basis. If you are overwhelmed by the daily challenges of caregiving, take time to relax daily and do the things you enjoy.
- Prioritize your health. Make time to exercise, choose healthy foods, and get enough sleep.
- Take advantage of respite care services that many facilities offer. This will allow you to take a much-needed break from the demands of caregiving, while ensuring your loved one still gets the care they need.
- Join local support groups. If you feel alone, connecting with other caregivers can give you a chance to vent and let you listen to how others are handling similar situations.
If you are struggling with stress overload, call your family doctor. They can help you manage your feelings and stress with stress management techniques, counseling, or medicine.
What other caregiving tips do you have? Please contact us with your suggestion, and we’ll do our best to cover topics that interest you.