Stress is the enemy of caregivers. Providing full time care is often difficult, yet it can be a rewarding endeavor. Don’t let stress get away from you. Watch for the early signs of it, implement measures to counteract them, and you’ll find your time at care giving much more rewarding.
There are four signs of stress that are most prevalent in those involved in care giving. They are: fatigue, altered nutrition, altered mood or emotions, and altered health.
Let’s take a look at each sign of stress. It is important for care givers to find ways to avoid stress; and if it can’t be avoided, ways to overcome it.
One of the most prevalent signs of too much stress in caregivers is fatigue. While I was the full time caregiver for my elderly mother, there were many nights when she’d awaken me ten or more times. Disoriented, she often lost track of time and would call for my attention. Since I was the only caregiver 24/7, I often only got snatches of sleep during any 24-hour period. Eventually I recognized my exhaustion was taking a toll on my system. Once I realized that, I made sure I napped every time she napped. That way, I made up some of the sleep I was missing at night. Another solution is to ask a neighbor or friend to come in so you can take a full-fledged nap now and then.
Another sign of stress in the caregiver is what I call altered nutrition. In my case, this came in the form of weight gain. It’s all too easy when you’re stressed to reach for all that comfort food. The problem is that the weight gain makes it more difficult to function as a caregiver and leads to stress. To combat this, keep plenty of fortifying nutritional snacks on hand that will lift your energy level while reducing your stress.
Altered mood or emotions is a sure sign of stress. It is often difficult to maintain a happy mood and positive emotions while providing care for a loved one. It’s stressful to watch someone you love suffer. Stress is especially prevalent when giving care to an elderly parent whose condition is deteriorating or when giving care to a terminally ill patient. You can’t help but start to grieve for the person you will soon lose. The important deterrent to stress in this situation is to recognize that you need help handling your emotions and finding someone to talk to about how you are feeling. Often it’s enough to talk with a friend or a family member who understands what you’re going through. Also, there are agencies where you can obtain counseling over the phone or online if you can’t get away to meet with a counselor.
Altered health is another sign that the stress of care giving might be getting to you. If you find that you are run down and as a consequence are suffering from more aches, pains and illnesses than usual, it’s time to take action. See your physician and ask for help. In many cases physicians can refer you to services in the community that will provide just the stress relief you need in order to overcome the toll that care taking may be having on your own well being.