Providing care for a loved one can be incredibly rewarding. However, it can take a toll on even the most resilient caregiver's own emotional and physical well-being. Today, we'll be exploring the ways you can recognise Caregiver Stress. We'll also be giving advice on how carers can protect their own health and well-being while caring for someone else.
What Causes Caregiver Stress?
Caregiver Stress is very common among people who provide long-term care to an ill, disabled or elderly loved one. Sometimes, carers may be so busy looking after the person they care for that they may not notice when their own health is suffering.
Watching a loved one's health decline takes a huge emotional toll and is certainly one of the hardest parts of being a carer. Alongside the responsibility of giving constant care and attention over a long period of time, this can lead to a kind of emotional and physical exhaustion known as Caregiver Stress.
People who are providing care by themselves with little extra support are at greater risk of 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
- 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 they are caring for
- Feelings of guilt, inadequacy and low self-esteem
- 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, you should consult your GP for help and read on to the section below for coping strategies.
Ways To Cope with Caregiver Stress
Recognising Caregiver Stress is the first step to recovering. Once you realise this, you can begin to reach out for help. You should put support systems in place to combat the pressure you're under. Of course, it can be hard to adjust your attention to your own well-being at first. Some people might even feel guilty for taking the time to look after themselves. Just remember that it's all in the best interest of the person you're caring for. After all, 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 combat exhaustion and help you stay well enough to sustain your role as a caregiver.
Set Aside Time For Yourself
If you are providing constant care, it can be difficult to find time for yourself. However, even 30 minutes can help alleviate stress. You could go for a walk, read a book, watch some television, or go for a coffee with a friend. Some caregivers find it helpful to get up half an hour before the person they care for, to take some quality time for themselves and start the day off calmly.
Understand What Resources Are Available
Above all, remember that you are not alone. Caregiver Stress is surprisingly common. There are many resources available to support carers who feel under pressure. Talk to your local authority to find out what services are available in your area. Your council will also be able to provide you with support and advice including a Carer's Assessment if required. You might be able to access 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, it's easy to forget about a support network for yourself. Don't be afraid 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 support can go a long way to help you feel more supported.
Be Realistic About What You Can Do
Inevitably, it will be difficult to watch a loved one's health deteriorate. 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 cure their condition fully. Be realistic about what you can do. Above all, 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.
Support from Careline365
If you care for a loved one, a Careline alarm could bring you some much-needed peace of mind. The Careline pendant means that help is always available at the touch of a button. A personal alarm connects the user to our 24/7 Care Team, 365 days of the year. This allows carers to take the time they need for themselves, safe in the knowledge that their loved one can call for assistance when they need it most.
Note: We updated this article to reflect the latest information on 15/07/2020