Being a caregiver can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have, but it’s also one of the hardest and most stressful. About one third of the adult population in the United States is a caregiver to a family member or friend. Yet, many people don’t recognize that they are serving as caregivers, perhaps because they believe they are “only doing the right thing.” But, if you’re helping an older adult who is ill, frail, or otherwise in need of help, you are a caregiver.
According to the Mayo Clinic, owning the title of caregiver may make you more likely to seek out help when you need it. One of the reasons you may need help is that many people who are caregivers are affected by caregiver stress.
What is Caregiver Stress?
Caregiver stress is the result of the demands that caregiver duties can place on a person. Lots of people who are caregivers feel responsible for the older adult they are helping 24 hour a day, meaning they may get a call for help at any time of the day or night. The result can be lost sleep, physical demands, and emotional pressure—all of which leads to caregiver stress.
Who is Affected?
Anyone who is a caregiver can be affected by caregiver stress, but some people are more likely to experience it than others.
Risk factors for caregiver stress are:
Gender: Women are affected by caregiver stress more often than men. Women are also more apt to put off their own physical health needs, including screenings, sleep, and exercise.
Level of Care: People who care for older adults who need constant care, such as those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, are affected by stress more often.
Location: If you live with the person you are caring for, you are at greater risk.
Finances: People who struggle financially are more likely to be stressed.
Choice: If you feel that you had no choice but to take up the mantle of caregiver, you could suffer from stress more easily.
Person Cared For: Caring for a spouse may be more stressful than caring for a parent or other family member.
What Are the Symptoms of Caregiver Stress?
It’s not uncommon for caregivers to neglect their own health, or perhaps not even notice that their health is declining. They become focused on the health of the person they are caring for to the exclusion of their own.
Some signs that you may be suffering from caregiver stress are:
- You feel overwhelmed all the time or you worry constantly.
- Frequently feeling tired. You may also sleep more than normal or have difficulty sleeping.
- Weight changes. You may either gain excess weight or lose weight without trying.
- You get angry easily, finding yourself snapping at people over small things or perhaps feeling unduly frustrated with the person you are caring for.
- You feel sad much of the time.
- You no longer want to do activities you once enjoyed.
- Feeling like you’re isolated and rarely see anyone other than the person you are caring for.
- Physical symptoms like headaches or body aches.
- Using illegal drugs, alcohol, or prescription drugs to mask your feelings.
- If you allow your stress to go unchecked, you can suffer physical consequences. Ongoing stress may cause you to become ill more easily since it can weaken your immune system. You may become depressed. Caregiver stress also puts you at higher risk for developing chronic conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
What Can You Do About It?
The good news is that you don’t have to let caregiver stress rule your life. In fact, if you aren’t currently affected by caregiver stress, you can even prevent it. Some steps that can reduce or prevent caregiver stress are:
Put Yourself First: This might be the most difficult step for many caregivers, but it’s also essential. You need to be in good physical and emotional health to do the best job possible, and the best way to do that is to take care of yourself first.
Stay Connected: Don’t lose touch with your friends and family members. Make time for a quick phone call, cup of coffee, and other activities with the people in your life.
Learn: Knowing as much as possible about the condition your aging relative has can relieve the stress of the unknown. It can also help you to find better ways to manage certain situations. Your local hospital or senior center may offer classes about certain conditions where you can learn care techniques.
Join a Support Group: There are online and in-person caregiver support groups for people going through the same thing you are. They are a place where you can share your experiences and feelings without judgement. You may also learn tips from more seasoned caregivers.
One other way you can avoid or reduce caregiver stress is by contacting a home care agency. Home care can give you the time you need to focus on your own health and relationships.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering hiring Caregiver Services in Tempe AZ, please contact the caring staff at Devoted Guardians today.
Affordable In-Home Care in the Phoenix Metro Area. Call Today: (480) 999-3012.