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How to Relieve the Stress as a Caregiver – Part One

Nurse taking care of old woman in wheelchair outdoor

Caregivers are those that care for others that are suffering from an illness, and injury, or disability. It is someone who cares for someone in need, whether it is a child, an aging parent, a spouse, a relative, or even a neighbor. Caregivers may also fall into the realm of professionals who are hired to provide care in the home. 

In part one, we will take a look at the important job you have as a caregiver and also learn how stress can affect our everyday lives both emotionally and physically. 

Family Caregivers

Informal caregivers – also known as family caregivers – are those who are not being paid for helping the person in need. They are caring for someone on a regular basis and helping them manage their everyday tasks. These tasks often include bathing, eating, and making sure to take their medications on time each day. Some also help with health and financial decisions, as well.

More than 65 million people in the United States are currently taking care of an ailing loved one. More than two-thirds of these Americans are also women. Being a caregiver is a challenging job and can put someone under immense amounts of stress, and that stress continues to build up over time and can manifest itself in different ways that can affect us physically as well as emotionally.

Dr. Diane Mahoney, Jacque Mohr Professor of Geriatric Nursing Research at MGH Institute of Health Professions, says, “we know family caregivers are under a particular amount of stress. And stress over time can cause them to become ill.” It has been found that more than 20 percent of caregivers have suffered health wise as a result of their responsibilities as a caregiver.

Understanding Caregiver Stress

Caregiver stress is the result of the emotional and physical strain that happens when taking care of someone. It is reported that caregivers experience much higher levels of stress throughout their day than those who are not caregivers. 

They are on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week most of the time, with little to no downtime. This can cause a person to become extremely overwhelmed at times and feel as if they have no time for their own needs and their own work. 

Caregiving is challenging, but it does come with its own set of rewards as well, but in order to reap those rewards, you need to make sure that you are taking care of yourself as well as your loved one. You should be setting time aside to do things you love and things that can improve your own health. 

Make sure you are sleeping and eating enough throughout the day and find some time to exercise. Doing all these things can help put you in a better position to handle stress. 

Who Often Suffers from Caregiver Stress?

Practically anyone can suffer from caregiver stress; however, some say that women experience higher levels of stress and more health problems compared to male caregivers. Women also have a much higher risk when they are caring for someone that requires constant medical care and supervision and when they care for their spouse.

If you are a caregiver for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it is far more likely that you will experience signs and symptoms of depression yourself. 

In the same respect, those that care for their spouses may also experience higher blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol and are even more likely to develop heart disease when compared to women who provide care for someone other than their spouses like their parents or even their own children.

You can also consider joining a support group for caregivers. You can share stories, trials and tribulations, joys, and concerns with people who understand what you are going through. 

Above all, you need to set aside time to take care of yourself and your own needs, or you won’t be much help to anyone. Be sure to stay in touch with your family and friends, continue to participate in activities you love and enjoy, and find time to remain active, exercise, eat healthily, and get enough sleep. 

Finally, be sure to keep your regular checkup appointments with your doctor and inform them that you are a caregiver. They will be able to discuss the signs and symptoms you may experience and help you find ways to cope. 

In part two, we will explore the many signs and symptoms one may experience as a caregiver who finds themselves under immense levels of stress and pressure. We will also explore how to alleviate that stress and learn how to help ourselves to better help others.  

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