Updated: Aug 21
If you are feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, or are experiencing increased stress symptoms while taking care of a chronically ill spouse or elderly parent, you may be feeling the effects of caregiver stress. Caregiver Stress is common and often caregivers do not realize how much stress they are coping with while providing care for their loved one.
There are many different causes of caregiver stress, including:
Fear or uncertainty due to the serious nature or the disease or decline in health and independence of the individual you are caring for. There may be uncertainty as to how to proceed. The position of caregiver usually carries some heavy responsibility and sometimes high-stakes situations and decision making.
Shift in roles: if you are caring for an elderly parent, it can be difficult to see someone who has traditionally been in the role of caring for you to now be in need of help. It may be difficult to see your loved one in such a vulnerable position, and it is often hard for those needing care to be feeling so helpless. This can take a toll on all parties involved.
Demands of constant care: many caregivers find themselves giving round-the-clock care, or spending virtually every free moment attending to the needs of their loved one. Others find that their responsibilities are less constant, but never know if they’ll be needed at one particular moment or the next, so they feel like they need to be constantly available. The feeling of being “always on duty” can take a heavy toll on a caregiver.
Isolation: when dealing with the needs of someone who requires constant care, a caregiver can feel isolated from the rest of the world. Whether you are in a position where it is unsafe to leave your loved one alone, or if they get lonely when you leave, you may find yourself much more tied to the house than before, which can make it more difficult for you to get exercise, connect with others, and do the things that help you manage stress.
Little time alone: while caregivers may feel isolated from others, it is also common to have very little time alone. The need for solitude is very real for most people, and the stress of getting little time alone can feel confusing for someone who also feels isolated. However, both feelings can coexist with caregivers, causing their stress to multiply.
Guilt: sometimes the responsibility and feelings of isolation can be overwhelming, and caregivers feel burned-out. Guilt can accompany such feelings, as though they are a sign of disloyalty. Feelings of frustration are understandable, but guilt is still common.
Exhaustion: caregivers often become overwhelmed with exhaustion while trying to juggle all of the needs and expectations of caring for their loved one often while trying to manage other areas of their personal life as well. Strain of managing other relationships while also a caregiver can be exhausting when trying to fulfill all expectations.
Frequent illness: caregivers often find themselves being sick more frequently due to not caring for themselves. Often not eating right, lack of sleep, stress, muscle strain or pulls, and other health issues develop.
These are just a few of the stressors that caregivers commonly feel, and many people may feel that their stress levels are excessive and that they must not be handling things as well as they should. If you feel that way, understand that you are facing significant pressures, and stress is a natural reaction. It is important, though, to understand the significant effect constant stress has on your overall health.
Some of the other health issues that may develop due to high stress levels include:
Higher level of stress hormones
Slower wound healing and infections
Weight gain or loss
High blood pressure
Dependence on alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
Loss of interest in activities
Anger issues or yelling
If you are feeling overwhelmed and having difficulty handling the stressors of caring for your loved one it is important that you work to understand your stress and to find a healthy outlet. There are support and services available in the community to help.
Some services available to caregivers:
Caregiver support groups
Elder service agencies
Hiring professional caregivers
Whatever you chose to do, make sure that you are allowing yourself time to separate yourself from your role as a caregiver and engage in self-care. Schedule time to manage your personal life, socialize with friends/family, take a walk, get exercise, and do activities you enjoy doing. Remember the metaphor of oxygen masks on a flight: you must secure yours before securing one for someone else. If you do not care for yourself you will not be capable of providing the best care for your loved one.
If you or someone you know is struggling with caregiver stress please contact Sheila Richardson at Best Home Care. Sheila will help guide you to the support and services that are available in your community. You may also click here for a free In-Home Assessment where you can discuss care need. Hiring professionals for even just a few hours a week allows the primary caregiver to take a break, while knowing their loved one is in the care of a well-trained and caring individual, and this helps to relieve some of the burdens of caregiving. At Best Home Care, there are no minimum hours required for service.