More than 65 million Americans provide unpaid care to a loved one. Being a family caregiver can be a rewarding experience with benefits for both the caregiver and the person receiving the care; relationships grow stronger, and many caregivers enjoy the feeling of being needed and allowing a loved one to live as comfortably as possible.
However, it’s not uncommon for family caregivers to report high levels of stress in their lives as a result of their caregiving duties. In fact, one in three report their stress levels as higher than normal. Sometimes, caregivers put so much effort into their caregiving duties that they begin to neglect their own well-being, and their physical, mental and emotional health begin to suffer.
Signs of Caregiver Stress
Keep in mind that negative stress can harm your health, and if you aren’t taking care of yourself you won’t be able to provide the level of care your loved one needs to thrive. Even the most resilient person can be affected by the emotional and physical demands that caregiving requires. A few of the common signs of caregiver stress include:
Feeling overwhelmed or irritable
Changes in mood or frequent mood swings
Not getting enough sleep- or sleeping too much
Having very low energy levels
Trouble eating/changes in your weight
Losing interest in activities or hobbies you previously always enjoyed
Becoming socially isolated- seeing less of friends and family
Feeling anger at the person you are caring for or others
Ways to Reduce Caregiver Stress
Recognizing the signs above are the first step in managing caregiver stress, as being aware of the symptoms can help you to avoid a stress overload and health crisis of your own. It can also be difficult for caregivers to admit they need help with their responsibilities, which means they won’t seek caregiver support of any kind.
Take advantage of the different caregiver support systems available in your area. Other successful ways to help lower caregiver stress include:
Join a support group. A support group offers a great way to meet new friends who are going through a similar experience as you. It also provides a chance for you to let off some steam and get advice from others.
Put yourself first. From time to time it’s important to put your own needs ahead of your loved one’s needs. Make time to exercise, visit with friends, and get the sleep you need.
Seek respite care. Respite care services provide short-term relief from your caregiving duties, allowing you the opportunity to attend to your own needs.
Accept help from others. Don’t be afraid to approach others for help, or accept help when it’s being offered to you. In fact, you should be prepared with a list of ways that you can utilize the extra help.
Maintain your own physical health. Make sure you are eating right, exercising often and getting enough sleep. Set some goals to ensure that you stay physically active every day, even if that means simply taking a walk with your loved one.
Stay socially connected with family and friends. Many caregivers find it difficult to get out of the house and spend time with friends, but be aware of the fact that social isolation can lead to depression, and maintaining a strong support system is key to managing your stress. Set aside time every week, even if all you can manage is an hour away to get coffee or socialize.
Take it easy on yourself. Remember that no one is perfect, and you are doing the best job you possibly can. Caregivers can tend to feel guilty about the level of care they are able to provide their loved ones. The main thing to keep in mind is that you are there during this time when your loved one needs you.
Quality Senior Care from Franciscan Ministries
Franciscan Ministries offers a full spectrum of care services for seniors in all stages of their lives. Your loved one will have peace of mind of knowing that as their needs change, the level of care they can expect to receive will change right along with them. For more information about living options at Franciscan Ministries’ senior living communities, please contact us today.