November 15, 2022
Signs of Caregiver Stress (And How to Cope with It)
November is National Family Caregivers Month, a time to recognize these important people, raise awareness, and increase support. And we want to help because we know, firsthand, how special caregivers are as they selflessly fulfill the rewarding role of supporting their loved one as they age. But, at the same time, caregivers are under a tremendous amount of stress, which long term, can be detrimental to your own health if left unchecked. Here’s how to identify the signs of caregiver stress and how to cope with it.
There are an estimated 42 million unpaid caregivers in the United States (1 in 6 Americans) caring for someone age 50 or older according to the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP’s report, “Caregiving in the U.S. 2020.”
NAC and AARP’s report states that caregivers provide about 24 hours of care each week and do so for 4.5 years on average. For most, that’s in addition to their other family responsibilities and their job. The resulting impact among these caregivers includes:
- 23 percent say caregiving has made their health worse
- 45 percent have had at least one financial impact
- 61 percent have experienced at least one work-related impact
- 10 percent have had to give up work entirely
- Only 45 percent have their own future care plans in place
This report underscores that caregivers need support too as many of these factors put you at higher risk for caregiver stress.
Signs of Caregiver Stress
If you’re like most caregivers, you’re so busy that it’s easy to overlook the signs that your own physical and mental health is suffering.That said, if you don’t make a point to do so now, your body will eventually force the issue, and/or you won’t be as helpful to your loved one as you could be. The signs of caregiver stress include:
- Being overwhelmed or constantly worried
- Feeling tired often
- Getting too much or not enough sleep
- Gaining or losing weight suddenly
- Becoming easily irritated or angry
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling sad often
- Having frequent headaches, body pain, or other physical problems
- Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
Coping with Caregiver Stress
If you are experiencing some of these signs, it’s important to take action. Prolonged stress can lead to a number of health issues such as the increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression, insomnia, poor concentration, digestive issues, and a weakened immune system.These tips can help you cope.
- Find a support group; AARP can help with a list of options.
- Build a support network of family and friends who can help with your loved one
- Keep up with YOUR regular ,preventative doctor visits
- Consider talking to a family counselor or therapist about your stress
- Commit to eating better and getting regular exercise
- Make sure you rest when you need it
- Make time to spend with friends and family and pursue your own interests
BONUS TIP: Realistically you can’t do it all, and there may very well come a time when your loved one requires more care than you can provide at home. At this point, it may be time to consider senior living. While you may feel guilty about this, try not to let it cloud your judgment of what’s in your loved one’s best interest in terms of health, safety, and quality of life. Not to mention,whether they are at home or in senior living, you’re still caring for your loved one, just in a different way. Also, families are often surprised at how quickly their loved one begins to thrive in senior living. In fact, many say they wish they’d made the move sooner!
For more information, or if you think it might be time to consider senior living for your loved one, contact GenCare LifestyleTM today, we're here to help!