Quality Care

10 Signs of Caregiver Stress and How to Ease the Tension

Remember, you can’t care for your loved one if you are a mental or physical basket case yourself. The first step in dealing with caregiver stress is to recognize the signs. Then you can search for ways to deal with it and enlist support or medical help when needed.

  1. The Blues According to the National Institutes on Health, caregivers’ risk for fighting depression is 30 times greater than that of non-caregivers, particularly among those tending to seniors with severe life-limiting diseases such as Alzheimer’s or a physically crippling illness. Are you struggling with constant sadness, feelings of hopelessness and even crying spells.
  2. Isolation This can occur if you see no way out. You may not wish to see family and friends. You may stop participating in things you used to enjoy.
  3. Fretfulness You may sense anxiety because you feel paralyzed or you may feel that you don’t have enough time. The responsibilities of facing another day may seem overwhelming.
  4. Bitterness You may raise your voice at your loved one more; you may fly off the handle at them or others. Caregivers often hold simmering resentment toward their loved one because they are sacrificing their own lives to care for them. Feeling angry at other family members for not pitching in is also common.
  5. Lack of concentration You are obsessed with worries about your loved one and everything that you need to do. As a result, you have difficulty concentrating.
  6. Disruption of eating habits This results in unwanted weight gain or loss, as well as increased likelihood of illness.
  7. Inability to Sleep You may feel wiped out, but cannot sleep. Or your emotions may be racing at full steam even if your body is tired. You also may become wide awake in the middle of the night or have nightmares and dark dreams.
  8. Weariness If you frequently wake up feeling a terrible aversion to getting out of bed despite the fact that you’ve slept, you’re in serious distress.
  9. Unhealthy Habits You may realize with a start that you are drinking or smoking more. Or, you might begin drinking or smoking when you haven’t in the past.
  10. Health Issues You may catch colds or the flu more often than usual. This is particularly common in caregivers who do not take care of themselves, by not eating properly and exercising. The immune system declines as other physical systems become worn and frayed.

Helpful strategies for Winding Down your Stress

  • Use respite and senior care companions available to you. Taking a break, while ensuring your loved one is well cared for, is one of the best ways to reduce stress.
  • If you need financial assistance, don’t be afraid to ask family members to chip in their fair share.
  • You might need to turn down requests that are draining and stressful, such as hosting holiday meals.
  • Forgive yourself your imperfections. There is no such thing as a faultless caregiver.
  • Identify what you can and cannot change. You may not be able to change someone else’s behavior, but you can adapt the manner in which you react to it.
  • Set realistic goals. Break larger tasks into bite-size steps that you can accomplish one at a time. Prioritize, make lists, and establish a daily routine.
  • Spend some time with family and friends and make time for yourself. Pay a companion service to watch your loved one for so many hours each week.
  • Join a support group for caregivers. If your loved one has a particular affliction, such as dementia or Parkinson’s, look for a support group targeted at that disease.
  • Make time to be physically active on whatever days possible, even if it’s just a brisk walk. Eat a healthy well-balanced diet and get enough rest.
  • See your doctor regularly for checkups.
  • Retain that sense of humor as a lifeline and practice positive thinking.
  • Find out about caregiving resources in your community. Your Area Agency on Aging is a great, free resource.
  • If you work outside the home, consider taking a break from your job. Employees covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act may be able to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave per year to care for relatives without fear of losing their jobs.

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