All Care will be publishing a Caregiver Stress Blog series which will cover the definition of caregiver stress, sign & symptoms, tips to control caregiver stress, as well as explore resources to help manage and avoid caregiver stress
Part I: What is Caregiver Stress?
Providing care for a loved one can be extremely rewarding and research suggests there are many benefits to long term caregiving including a greater level of intimacy, increased patience, as well as a feeling of gratitude for being able to care for a loved one. But with rewards comes challenges, including caregiver stress which can easily lead to caregiver burnout. If you haven’t yet found yourself in the role of caregiver, chances are you will at some point in your life. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, more than 52 million people provide unpaid care to a relative, friend, or neighbor, which means more than 21% of American households are impacted by the responsibilities of caregiving.
Stress from caregiving is common, putting many at risk for the health effect of caregiver stress including but not limited to depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, as well as a host of other ailments due to a compromise immune system. While it does feel good to care for a loved one, sometimes this results in little time for one’s social and/or professional life. You must always remember that in order to provide quality care to a loved one you must first take quality care of yourself.
Caregiver stress can happen to anyone; however, since 3 out of 5 family caregivers are women (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services), women are more likely to be effected by the physical and emotional effects of caregiver stress. An American Journal of Preventative Medicine study found women who provide care to a spouse are more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and are twice as likely to have heart disease as women who care for others such as a parent, child, or friend. The American Psychological Association also found that female caregivers are less likely to get regular health screening and may not get enough sleep or regular physical activity.
As well as physical signs of caregiver stress, many motional signs can be noted as well. You can have varying emotions from feeling frustrated in one moment to completely overwhelmed and helpless in the next. You may be consumed with feelings of worry, sadness, or isolation. Emotional pain and suffering is just as dangerous as physical pain.
While taking care of a loved one is an important job, you always have to remember that it is imperative to take time for yourself, get sufficient amounts of regular sleep, keep up with personal healthcare, and most importantly, ask for and accept help, you may have more available resources than you might think!
Be sure to check out next week’s installment of our Caregiver Blog Series which will explore the signs and symptoms of Caregiver Stress