A caregiver is someone who helps someone else who needs it, such as a sick spouse or partner, a disabled child, or an elderly relative. However, family members who are actively caring for an elderly person often do not identify themselves as ‘caregivers’. Recognizing this role can help caregivers receive the support they need.
Caring for a sick person is rewarding, but it creates stress
Caring for a sick person has its rewards. For most caregivers, being there to care for a loved one when they need you is an essential value and something you are willing to do.
However, there will almost certainly be a change in roles and emotions. It is normal to feel angry, frustrated, exhausted, alone, or sad. Caregiver stress (physical and emotional stress of another person’s caregiver) is common.
People who experience caregiver stress may be vulnerable to changes in their own health. Caregiver stress risk factors include the following:
- Have fewer years of formal education
- Living with the person you are caring for
- Social isolation
- Have depression
- Economic difficulties
- Increased number of hours spent caring for a person
- Lack of ability to cope with a complex situation and difficulty solving problems
- Having no choice but to be a caregiver
Caregiver stress signs
As a caregiver, you may be so focused on your loved one that you don’t realize that your own health and well-being are at risk according to orthopedic expert witness. Pay attention to the caregiver’s signs of stress:
- Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
- Feeling tired much of the time
- Sleeping too much or not sleeping enough
- Gain or lose weight
- Get irritated or angry easily
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Feel sad
- Having frequent headaches, body pain, or other physical problems
- Consuming alcohol or drugs excessively, including prescription drugs
Suffering a lot of stress, especially for a long time, can harm your health. As a caregiver, you are more likely to have symptoms of depression or anxiety. In addition, you may not sleep or exercise enough, or have a balanced diet; this increases your risk of health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Strategies for managing caregiver stress
The emotional and physical demands of caring for a person can stress even the most resilient person. That is why it is so important to take advantage of all the resources and tools available that help you with the care of your loved one. Remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of someone else.
To control caregiver stress, do the following:
Accept help. Make a list of ways others can help you and let the person help you choose what they would like to do. For example, a friend may offer to take the person you care for a walk a few times a week. Or, a friend or family member can run errands, shop, or cook for you.
Concentrate on what you can give. Sometimes it is normal to feel guilty, but understand that there is no “perfect” caregiver. Think that you are doing the best you can and making the best possible decisions at all times.
Set realistic goals. Break large tasks into smaller steps that you can do one at a time. Prioritize, make lists, and establish a daily routine. Start saying no to strenuous orders, like organizing meals on holidays.
Connect. Learn about the resources your community offers for caregivers. Many communities offer specific classes on the illness your loved one is facing. Care services, such as transportation, food delivery, and cleaning, are also available.
Join a support group. A support group can provide validation and motivation, as well as strategies for dealing with difficult situations. People who attend support groups understand what you are going through. A support group can also be a good place to cultivate meaningful relationships.
Seek social support. Make an effort to stay connected with family and friends who can offer emotional support without prejudice. Set aside time each week to connect, even if it’s just a walk with a friend.
Set personal health goals. For example, set goals for a proper sleep routine, find time to be physically active most days of the week, maintain a healthy diet, and drink plenty of water.
Consult the doctor. Get the recommended vaccinations and get the appropriate exams. Be sure to tell the doctor that you are a caregiver. Don’t hesitate to mention any concerns or symptoms you have.