Caregiving is rewarding but stressful
Caregiving can have many rewards. For most caregivers, being there when a loved one needs you is a core value and something you wish to provide.
But a shift in roles and emotions is almost certain. It is natural to feel angry, frustrated, exhausted, alone, or sad. Caregiver stress — the emotional and physical stress of caregiving — is common.
People who experience caregiver stress can be vulnerable to changes in their own health. Risk factors for caregiver stress include:
Living with the person you are caring for
A higher number of hours spent caregiving
Lack of coping skills and difficulty solving problems
Lack of choice in being a caregiver
Signs of caregiver stress
As a caregiver, you may be so focused on your loved one that you don’t realize that your own health and well-being are suffering. Watch for these signs of caregiver stress:
Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
Feeling tired often
Getting too much sleep or not enough sleep
Gaining or losing weight
Becoming easily irritated or angry
Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems
Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
Too much stress, especially over a long time, can harm your health. As a caregiver, you’re more likely to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety. In addition, you may not get enough sleep or physical activity, or eat a balanced diet — which increases your risk of medical problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Strategies for dealing with caregiver stress
The emotional and physical demands involved with caregiving can strain even the most resilient person. That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of the many resources and tools available to help you provide care for your loved one. Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for anyone else.