Caregiving is providing help to another person in need. This can be an ailing spouse, an aging parent or a disabled child. More and more people who are not health care professionals are taking on the role of caregiver.
If you are a caregiver, you know that being there for your loved one who needs you is rewarding. But caregiving can be extremely taxing and caregiver stress is quite common.
As a caregiver, it’s easy to start believing that you need to take care of everything by yourself. Don’t fall into this trap. There are many resources available to help you provide care, take advantage of them. The old saying is true – if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else.
Signs of Caregiver Stress
Caregivers can become so focused on their loved ones that they fail to notice their own health is suffering. Keep an eye out for these signs of caregiver stress.
- Feeling irritable all the time
- Feeling constantly overwhelmed
- Feeling consistently tired
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Sleep problems
- Losing or gaining a lot of weight
Over time, stress can really hurt your health. Caregivers are more likely to experiencing the symptoms of anxiety or depression. They are also less likely to eat well and get regular exercise, increasing their risk of health issues like diabetes and heart disease.
Tips for dealing with caregiver stress
Accept help. When someone asks if they can help, let them. Make a list of ways that others could assist you, and let the person who offers pick a job from the list.
See your doctor. Do not neglect your own health care. Go for all your recommended check-ups and screenings. Keep your immunizations up to date and mention all of your personal health concerns to your doctor. Tell your doctor that you are a caregiver, so they know what you are dealing with.
Keep track of your own health goals. Aim to exercise a certain number of days a week. Track your sleeping hours and work to increase them. Work at improving your nutrition. Any steps that keep your own health as a focus.
Stay socially active. Make a consistent effort to stay connected to your family and friends. Set time aside for socializing, even if it’s only a few hours a week. Make plans that get you out of the house and emotionally connected to others. This support will help you manage stress.
Join a caregiver support group. This can be a wonderful source of advice and encouragement. A place to meet new people who understand exactly what you are dealing with.
Focus on what you CAN do. Feelings of guilt are normal, but no one is the perfect caregiver at all times. Do not give in to guilt. You are doing the best you can.
It may be hard to do, but taking a break from caregiving is one of the best things you can do for your loved one and yourself. Respite care is available in many forms.
Adult Care Centres: These centres are available for day time care in many communities
Short-term Care: Some assisted living facilities and nursing homes will accept adults needing care for short term stays while their caregivers are away.
At Home Respite Care: Many home care agencies offer home respite care. Caregivers can come to your home to provide care and companionship while you are away.
Remember that you are not alone
Many caregivers have a hard time asking for help. Not opening up to others about your situation can lead to feeling frustrated, isolated and depressed. Don’t struggle on your own. Talk to people about what you are going through, seek resources and support, and stay connected.