According to Mayo Clinic, about one in three adults in the United States provides care to other adults as informal caregivers. A caregiver is defined as anyone who is providing help to another person in need. This includes an ill spouse, partner, disabled child, or an aging relative. Unfortunately, being a caregiver is not an easy thing and many will experience an emotional or physical stress related to care giving.
Caring for a loved one can be a difficult task for even the strongest people. For caregivers, it is important for them to preserve their own mental health and well-being. This type of stress that caregivers may experience is a common thing among the healthcare community and can cause insomnia, fatigue, and depression among other things.
Care giving can be a rewarding experience and can give you a chance to bond with a loved one or family member. However, it can have detrimental effects if your own health is not taken into account as well. Caregiver stress is not a joke and should be taken seriously as it can have major consequences on your physical and mental health.
Signs of Caregiver Stress
For many caregivers, being there when a loved one needs you is something that they wish to provide. But, sometimes this can get out of hand and may even impact the health of the caregiver. Often times the health of a caregiver is too often ignored for long periods of time, perhaps because the signs and symptoms of the condition aren’t recognized.
Some of the signs that you or someone you know is dealing with caregiver stress include:
- Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
- Becoming easily irritated
- Getting too much or not enough sleep
- Feeling sad
- Having frequent headaches, bodily pain, or other physical problems
- Abusing drugs or alcohol, including prescription medications
It is also important to remember who is more at risk of being affected by caregiver stress. People who experience caregiver stress can be vulnerable to changes in their health, the risk factors for caregiver stress include:
- Living with the person you are caring for
- Social isolation
- Having depression
- Financial difficulties
- High number of hours spent care giving
- Lack of coping skills and difficulty solving problems
While many caregivers are at risk of experiencing this type of problem, there are a number of ways that you can prevent you or someone you know from experiencing these issues.
How to Reduce Stress
When you or someone you care about is experiencing some of the signs of caregiver stress, there are a number of things that you can do to alleviate some of these problems. If the issues are severe enough, though, it may be beneficial to consult a medical professional on the best path forward.
Maintaining social interaction with other people, including other caregivers can help someone you know manage their stress and it can be effective in reducing feelings of isolation. Recognizing that they are not alone is an significant step. Simply speaking with someone about some of the struggles that they are facing is an important part of maintaining proper health as a caregiver. It can be a fellow caregiver, friend, therapist, or family member, as long as they are reaching out.
Accepting that you are dealing with a condition like caregiver stress can be hard, but doing it is the first step to seeking help. Joining a support network may be the next step. Seeking assistance with meals, transportation, social activities, and other services can be helpful in reducing stress.
Educating yourself on the risks, causes, and problems associated with caregiver stress can help you or someone you know get more prepared if this situation were to occur. Talking to medical staff about information and services that they can offer to older adults and their caregivers is a good way to approach change.
Taking time off for yourself can be one solution to making you feel better. Things like social outings, participating in a hobby, reading a good book, listening to music, watching a movie can be effective in helping you or someone else relax.
Exercise is a helpful in helping not only physical health but mental health as well. A daily exercise can help in improving mood, something like a quick 10-minute walk can give you a change of scenery and some fresh air. Yoga, Tai Chi, and stretching can also help to relax the mind and reduce stress.
Along with exercise, remembering to get proper sleep, eating right and decreasing alcohol consumption and quitting smoking can have major health benefits, not only for stress but for a number of other health-related issues like cardiovascular and heart disease.
Remaining positive can make a huge difference. Writing in a journal and choosing the good things that happened throughout the day can help to reduce the negative thought and the stress and overwhelming feelings associated with the negative thoughts.
There is more and more evidence that shows that mindful meditation exercises can help to ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain. According to information from Harvard Medical School, meditation has been found to chance certain brain regions that are specifically linked to depression. "When you meditate, you are better able to ignore the negative sensations of stress and anxiety, which explains, in part, why stress levels fall when you meditate," says Dr. John W. Denninger, a director at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
Being a caregiver can be a tough job, and it can come with harmful adverse consequences that may put your own mental or physical health at risk. Caregiver stress is a common condition among caregivers and if the problem is not taken care of, it can lead to more serious issues. If you or a loved one is in need of a caregiver or other type of help, it may be time to look into assisted living facilities. At Landmark Senior Living, we have the resources to offer our residents the necessary care and the social interaction and activities that they need to keep them healthy and happy as they move on to the next chapter in their lives.