Providing care for a loved one is incredibly rewarding. However, it can take a toll on even the most resilient caregiver’s own emotional and physical well-being. Here, we explore the ways to recognise Caregiver Stress and provide advice on how carers can ensure their own health and well-being is looked after.
What Causes Caregiver Stress?
Caregiver Stress is very common among people who are providing long-term care to an ill, disabled or elderly person. Sometimes carers may be so busy looking after the person they care for’s needs, they may not notice the toll it is taking on their own health.
Watching a loved one’s health decline takes a huge emotional toll and is one of the hardest parts of providing care. This coupled with the stress of giving constant care and attention over a long period of time can lead to the emotional and physical exhaustion known as Caregiver Stress.
People who are providing care by themselves with little extra help or support networks are at greater risk of burnout. Carers who seldom get a break from providing care are also more vulnerable to suffering from Caregiver Stress.
Symptoms To Look Out For
Caregiver Stress can manifest in many different ways. However, here are the most common symptoms to look out for:
- Feeling overwhelmed and constantly alert or worried
- Feeling lonely, isolated and like no one else can help
- Sleeplessness or sleeping too much
- Inability to concentrate
- Frustration, resentment or apathy towards the person cared for
- Feelings of guilt, inadequacy and low self-esteem
- Having frequent headaches or bodily pains
- Depression, sadness or general feelings of hopelessness
- Exhaustion and difficulty completing simple daily tasks
If you find you are suffering from any of the above symptoms due to the stress of providing care for someone, consult your health provider for help and read on to the section below for coping strategies.
Ways To Cope
Recognising you may be suffering from Caregiver Stress is the first step to recovering. Once you realise this you can begin to reach out for help and put tools in place to combat the pressure you’re under. Of course it can be hard to adjust the focus of your attention to your own well being at first. Just remember this is all in the interest of the person you’re caring for too, as you’ll find it easier to provide the level of care they need if you are less stressed.
Take Care Of Your Own Health
Make a conscious effort to look after your own health. Visit your doctor regularly, exercise, eat well and get enough sleep. This will all help combat exhaustion and ensure you are well enough to sustain your role as a caregiver.
Set Aside Time For Yourself
If you are providing constant care, it can be very difficult to feel like you have any spare time for yourself. However, even 30 minutes to yourself has been proven to help alleviate stress. This could be a walk, reading, watching a film or going for a coffee with a friend. Some caregivers find getting up half an hour before the person they care for wakes gives them time to breathe and start the day off in a calm space.
Understand What Resources Are Available
Remember you are not alone, Caregiver Stress is incredibly common. There are many resources available to provide support for carers who are suffering under pressure. Talk to your local Health Provider to find out what services are available to support you in your local area. Your local council will also be able to provide you with support and advice including a Carer’s Assessment if required. Support may be offered in the form of support groups, counselling, financial assistance or respite care. Check out Mind’s guide on How To Cope As A Carer for more resources.
Find A Support Network
Sometimes when you are the main support for someone who is unwell, you can forget you also need a support network for yourself. Don’t be afraid or too proud to reach out to family and friends for help when you need it. Whether it’s help in the form of dropping off groceries or picking up prescriptions, a little bit of extra help can go a long way to help you feel more supported.
Be Realistic About What You Can Do
Often it can be difficult to watch someone you’re caring for suffer. You may feel guilty or even resentful that despite all your time and effort to make sure they are looked after they are still unwell. Recognise your limits and accept that sometimes there is nothing you can do to alleviate their condition fully. Be realistic about what you can do and remember that you are doing the best you can do in the circumstances.
Need Help Now?
If you think you may be suffering from Caregiver Stress and need help now, here is a list of organisations you can contact for support:
Samaritans are available on 116 123 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call free anytime, from any phone.
Mind is available on 0300 123 3393 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday for advice on mental health and where to get help. Their website also offers an excellent in-depth guide on How To Cope As A Carer.