The work that goes into being a primary caregiver for a sick or elderly family member is very difficult, and the number of Canadian caregivers feeling distressed, upset or even depressed has nearly doubled in the last few years.
According to the Huffington Post, 33 percent of folks who provided care for a loved one at home had feelings of depression, anger or anxiety in 2013-14, but in 2008-09, just 16 percent of caregivers reported those same feelings.
Recognizing how negative side effects may manifest themselves is important for identifying caregiver stress. There are also a number of ways to prevent or lower unhappiness or anxiety, which is important for providing the best possible elder care for loved ones who need it most.
One reason that folks taking care of an older family member might not recognize the risk of chronic stress in their lives is that they may not consider themselves caregivers. The Mayo Clinic reported that family members providing support and care for an elderly parent may overlook the seriousness of the work they do. Identifying as a caregiver is an important step in treating any related stress.
There are a number of factors associated with caregiver stress, according to the Mayo Clinic, and these may increase a person's likelihood of developing more serious anxiety or depression. For example, living with the person you are caring for can make it difficult to mentally balance the responsibility with the rest of your daily life, especially if you are caring for someone who is very sick. This can also lead to social isolation, which may exacerbate feelings of sadness or stress. Other complicating factors include previous depression, financial concerns or prolonged hours of providing care.
Being a caregiver is difficult work, and it is important to not only recognize and respect the responsibility, but also be able to identify what the stress can do to a person.
The stress associated with being a caregiver can have long-term negative consequences on health in the long-run. Anxiety can be very detrimental to the heart, and the sadness or stress related to being a caregiver may lead to poor sleep and diet, which can further health problems.
In the short-term, caregivers that are feeling stressed, angry or depressed may exhibit any number of symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic, these may include feeling overly concerned or uneasy, feeling fatigued, weight gain or irritability.
Stress can also work in the opposite way and cause insomnia or weight loss, and can also cause physical discomfort like headaches or bodily pain. Stressed caregivers may also have feelings of apathy or even abuse alcohol and drugs.
As a caregiver, identifying stress or anxiety is important in mitigating it. Even if symptoms are benign or generalized, it is still critical to take steps to mitigate stress as a way of avoiding resentment or burnout and maximizing the quality of care a loved one receives.
Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising are important for the body to remain in balance, but the Mayo Clinic reported that avoiding caregiver stress often requires more calculated measures.
Asking for help is key for caregivers, who can often take on more work than they need to. Bringing in a friend or family member will limit feelings of isolation as well as give you a break as the primary caregiver, and support in anything from cooking and cleaning to helping with transportation and medical appointments can go a long way.
Outside of friends and family, there are a number of resources and support groups designed to connect caregivers with one another. This way best practices and remedies can be shared, and caregivers can find a community with similar needs and problems.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living