If you are a full-time caregiver for your elderly relative, you could be dealing with chronic stress but not recognize it. If left undiagnosed and untreated, chronic stress can have a detrimental effect on your health and well-being. The first step toward preserving your health is recognizing the symptoms of chronic stress, and then developing coping strategies to effectively diffuse it.
So how can you tell if you are over-stressed?
There are many triggers for your stress levels that center on being a caregiver. Your elderly relative needs constant and often repetitive care that can be physically and mentally taxing. If they are demonstrating some cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s disease, it can add an extra layer of frustration and worry. As their health and age-related issues cause them to be more dependent on you, the demands increase.
Symptoms of chronic stress in caregivers include: persistent feelings of lethargy, recurring headaches, an increase or decrease in appetite, gastrointestinal distress, weight gain and insomnia. Internally, chronic stress can trigger high blood pressure and heart disease. To cope with being over-stressed, many family caregivers turn to an increased use of drugs and alcohol. Emotionally, being a caregiver without respite can lead to a diagnosis of depression. While it can manifest in different ways for everyone, the common message is that stress is a real part of being a caregiver and it must be taken care of.
It can be hard to admit that stress is dominating your life, especially when you know your aging relative depends on you for their health and safety. However, many family caregivers are finding a good balance between their own time and that of their elderly loved one when they hire home care providers. Home care providers are professionals with the skills to step in and take care of seniors in their own home so that the family caregivers can take breaks.
Imagine what you could do if you had a regularly scheduled break several times per week? It’s important for anyone who is over-stressed to practice good coping skills and take care of their own needs for a while. Some of the areas to focus on in your life include regular exercise, recreation, spending time in nature, healthy diet, doing a hobby, socializing with friends, strengthening bonds with family members, and indulging in relaxation activities like reading, meditating, massage and restorative sleep.
Stress in family caregivers is more common than you might think, and it can happen to anyone who spends most of their time looking after their elderly loved one without assistance. Instead, hire a home care provider so you can get regular breaks and tend to your own needs so you can avoid being over-stressed.