Many health articles list divorce, being fired, and a death in the family as the primary sources of stress in life. There is good evidence to support adding a caregiver to this unfortunate list. People who care for others with special needs, such as a child, spouse, sibling or aging parent, often seek treatment for anxiety, often due to feeling depressed, or feeling lonely in addition to feelings of depression.
Caring for a loved one can be rewarding, but it also can be overwhelming and fraught with challenges. The demands on time, money and patience can be debilitating and isolating.
Being a caregiver is typically a long-term and difficult life situation that can be demoralizing, especially if there is little hope that the person you are caring for will ever recover. Burnout can result, with caregiver stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and guilt being common complaints.
Take three important steps to help you deal with caregiver stress to restore your own health and happiness.
1. Ask For Help!
It seems simple, but too often people are just reluctant to ask for help. We don’t want to admit we need it or that we can’t “handle” it. That mindset could ultimately hurt you and possibly your loved ones. It takes strength of character to ask for help, and there are many resources available for caregivers.
Asking for help is difficult and takes courage, but you never know until you try. It could be the best thing, start with family members. They most likely want to help but may be hesitant to offer. Turn to family first and ask them to help out so you can take time for yourself.
Adult Daycare Centers
Adult day care centers are a wonderful way to leave your loved one in the capable hands of trained and experienced staff. They can provide a much needed respite for both of you, once a week, or a month, or more. This could afford you time for yourself and the activities you enjoy.
Home Health Aides
If transporting your loved one to a daycare facility is difficult because of limited mobility or other issues consider hiring a home health aide—where trained staff comes to you; daily, weekly, monthly, whatever works for the situation. They can even be on-site with you, providing care and time with the patient, while you take a bath, catch up on bills and emails, or just relax.
Caregiving can bring with it feelings of isolation. It can mean many hours where it’s just you and the patient. Feelings of sadness, anger and guilt can sometimes build. For a caregiver, sometimes it can feel like you are the opponent and the referee.
Friends can be a great sounding board, but are best reserved for sharing good times, not as therapists.
Keeping a journal has been shown to be very therapeutic. Keep one handy to write down your feelings, rather than keeping it bottled up inside. It’s private, so you can be honest in it. Working through your emotions as you write can improve coping skills, and may even spark a few creative solutions.
3. Join a Support Group
You are not alone! There are hundreds and thousands of people in your state who are caregivers. There are most likely dozens in your city or town who are experiencing similar problems and emotions as caregivers. Seek them out!
A support group for caregivers is an effective way to express your emotions, empathize with others, and even exchange caregiving ideas that help everyone.
Caring For Yourself
Caregiving is challenging and worthwhile. The best person to care for a person with special needs is a capable, loving parent or family member. Just don’t forget to care for yourself, too. Seek the help and support of others who are going through similar kinds of caregiver stress.