Coping with Caregiver Stress
When I was caregiver to my father I was, at times, very stressed. I had three (minor) accidents in my car! All involved stationary objects, a small wall at the doctor’s office, a parked car in a hotel car park, and a signpost! It was embarrassing and costly. I have not had any accidents since he died.
Stress, I believe, comes as part of the job. I loved my father very much so there were no difficulties for me, as with other caregivers, of having to try to deal with past arguments and disagreements. He was my father so there were no associated problems of looking after a spouse’s relative, something I know can cause domestic turmoil. Yet I was still stressed.
As my father’s confusion, distress and physical disabilities increased I coped. Well I thought I was coping. I had the help of my husband and daughter. But it was hard for them too as our social life became more restricted and medical interventions such as tests, hospital outpatients visits and hospital stays increased.
I was his primary caregiver for three years. Sometimes I recognised my symptoms of stress, at other times they were pointed out to me. When I had three car crashes within a short time frame I realized I had to do something about it!
How to Recognise Your Symptoms of Stress
As a caregiver I am sure you will be affected by many of the following:
- Short temper, intolerance, tears
- Poor concentration
- Tiredness, lethargy
- Sleep disturbances (trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep).
- Mood swings, depression, anxiety
Physically you suffer too. Caregivers are much more prone to infection and
symptoms of stress can include headaches, stomach aches, diarrhea, muscular tightness/tension, dizziness, shaking or trembling, sweating.
It is important to see your doctor if any physical symptoms are persistent, severe or are just worrying you. Stress can shorten lives and so you need to get urgent treatment if you experience shortness of breath, chest pains, any blood loss, severe or frequent headaches or have a pre-existing heath problem that may be exacerbated by stress.
Caregivers go to their doctors for their own health problems 50% more often than non caregivers, they receive 70% more prescribed medicines than non caregivers, they go to hospital or the emergency room 25% more than non-caregivers. Stress symptoms must never be ignored. There are treatments and sometimes medications may be needed for a short period to help you cope better.
Here is more information with links to more information about caregiver stress.