Between juggling work and a personal life, many Americans who take on the role of family caregiver to older loved ones often experience a great deal of stress. The cost of healthcare has become more expensive than ever, a fact which has caused more and more adult children to function as de facto caregivers for their aging parents and grandparents.
The Need For Caregiver Stress Relief
The number of Americans who are caring for older loved ones has risen to 65 million. This figure will likely continue to climb in light of recent changes to the country’s medical system. Individuals who are currently assuming the primary care of a loved one or plan to do so in the near future, must be sure to understand the importance of maintaining their own good health.
Caregivers are bound to undergo a number of lifestyle changes, a few of which may cause frustration. From making arrangements for an older loved one to live with them, or rearranging family schedules to regularly visit and care for a loved one in their own home, these disruptions to an established routine can feel jarring and disruptive to caregivers. There is also an emotional component that family caregivers must deal with, particularly in seeing a parent or grandparent unable to care for themselves as they once did.
These feelings are completely normal; stressed out caregivers often do so much for others that they sometimes neglect their own needs. When this happens, that can make matters worse for everyone involved in the situation.
Are You Overextending Yourself? The Effects of Stress on Caregivers
Stress can manifest in a number of ways for caregivers who balance a full schedule alongside caring for a loved one.
- Excess fatigue and lethargy – If more than 6 hours of sleep each night sounds like a blessing, you may be pushing your limits. With so much to do in so little time, many caregivers adopt the “I’ll have plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead” philosophy. It is important to note, however, that one’s performance and productivity is directly affected (and greatly hindered) by a lack of quality rest. By not sleeping well, caregivers expose themselves to unnecessary physical, mental and emotional health risks. Do yourself and your loved one a favor by taking time to get some much-needed rest.
- Weight changes – Stress affects everyone differently. Talk to your doctor if you have noticed any major fluctuations in your body weight (more or less) in a short period of time, as this is unhealthy and should be addressed.
- A lack of interest in activities once considered fun – You should never feel guilty about spending some free time every now and then doing the things you want to do. Your loved one cares about you just as much as you care about them, so be sure to treat yourself whenever you see fit.
When you start to feel overwhelmed, remember that you are not alone. Accept your limitations (after all, we are all human), join a local support group to talk with other caregivers and make your health a number one priority.
Want to know how stress may affect your memory? Check this post out