10 Caregiver Stress Symptoms and How to Handle Them
As the population in the United States ages, more mature adults require caregivers to help with everything from housekeeping and chores to medication management and assistance with daily tasks. Dementia care for individuals with Alzheimer’s or another form of the disease is also common.
Research shows that roughly 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. provide care for others in an informal caregiver role. These caregivers can be family members, spouses, friends and neighbors. And while it’s not common for family members to identify themselves as a “caregiver,” recognizing that they have accepted this role can be essential in finding the support they need to avoid stress and burnout.
Caregiving is rewarding and makes a huge difference in someone’s life, but it also comes with a wide range of stressors. Supporting someone is a huge responsibility that can bring up new emotions, leaving caregivers feeling frustrated, isolated, exhausted and sad at times. This article will go into common caregiver stress symptoms and provide tips for how to handle them.
10 Symptoms of Caregiver Stress
It’s common to experience feelings of anger or frustration with someone you care for has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. It’s tough to talk about, but it’s normal. It could be anger that your life has changed, that a relative or friend with dementia doesn’t remember you or they are unable to do the things that they used to do. For example, if you’ve set rules that are in place for someone’s safety and they keep forgetting them, it’s understandable to feel angry or upset.
If you notice yourself feeling angry, try not to just dismiss your feelings. They’re important to acknowledge, and if you feel angry often, it may be time to take active steps to destress.
This is especially true for family members that have taken on the caregiver role. You may hope that your parent or spouse is going to get better but there comes a point where your optimism changes to denial about the seriousness of their condition and the effect it is having on the person who has been diagnosed.
Dementia is a serious disease, but individuals living with dementia can still live full, meaningful lives. The important thing is to focus on the issue at hand. If dementia is affecting the life of someone you care for and you cannot provide the support they need, don’t dismiss the situation. Instead, find professional help such as memory care services that can provide the support you and your relative need to build strong, positive lives.
3. Social Isolation
Social withdrawal can happen gradually over a period of months or even years. You may find yourself having to skip time with friends or no longer participate in activities that make you feel good, like going to the gym. Whether you feel exhausted or you’re having a hard time leaving your loved one in the care of others, social isolation is a big issue for many caregivers.
If you notice yourself withdrawing from your normal activities, ask yourself if it’s a one-time change or a larger pattern. If it’s a pattern that’s becoming more common, it could be a stress symptom that needs to be addressed.
Working to care for the daily needs of someone who you are close to can be exhausting and make it difficult to complete your own personal chores and tasks. Exhaustion shouldn’t be confused with just being tired. Being tired is normal after a long day. Exhaustion is more frequent and severe, affecting your ability to care for yourself and your relative.
Even though you’re exhausted, it’s common to have a hard time getting to sleep at night. When you’ve got so many responsibilities to think about and a mile-long list of concerns, shutting your brain down for sleep can feel nearly impossible. Like exhaustion, insomnia isn’t just a one-time occurrence where you have trouble sleeping every now and again. It’s frequent and can affect your ability to care for yourself and others.
You’re overworked, not getting enough sleep and worrying about the well-being of the person you’re caring for before handling your own needs. Plus, worrying about the health of your family member or friend can make you feel sad and make you especially vulnerable to depression.
Depression often starts as a lack of interest in your life. You may stop enjoying your favorite meals or TV shows, or have a hard time relating to friends and family. Depression is a serious problem and a common sign of caregiver stress that should be dealt with through professional support.
Are you staying on top of medication management? Making sure everyone is comfortable and entertained? What about the bills? Can you make it to the next doctor’s appointment while running on so little sleep?
Caregivers have a lot of responsibility. If those responsibilities are making you anxious and worried, you’re likely under too much stress. You may experience anxiety related to the sheer number of things to do each day or what the future holds. Or even worse, what if your loved one eventually needs more care than you’re able to provide? These manifestations of anxiety are a clear indication that you need to take steps to unwind and manage your stress.
8. Lack of Concentration
It’s common to find yourself so busy taking care of your family member’s needs that you lose track of the time or miss important events. With your mind going to a million different places, focusing on even the most familiar of tasks can seem difficult.
Spending too much time with anyone, even your best friend, can take a toll on your mental health. So, it’s nothing to be ashamed of if you find that you’re much more irritable than normal when experiencing caregiver stress. If irritability is a regular occurrence that starts affecting your relationships, however, then it’s likely a symptom of a larger problem.
10. Health Problems
When your focus in life is caring for the health of another, you can easily let your own physical and mental health needs sit on the back burner. If you can’t remember the last time you felt well, it’s time to give yourself a little attention.
Caring for your own health concerns is essential to being a good caregiver. If you aren’t well, you can’t provide the support another person needs to live a strong, healthy life.
How Can you Deal with Caregiver Stress?
Caregiver stress can sneak up on even the most experienced and resilient caregivers. That’s why it is so important for those in a caregiving role to have access to support tools and outside resources that are designed to help you reduce your everyday stressors. Remember, if you are unable to care for yourself, you surely won’t be able to provide the best possible care for anyone else.
To help manage caregiver stress, we suggest following a few simple strategies:
- Accept Help — There’s no reason you should have to take on the responsibility of caring for someone else without a bit of help now and then. Whether you reach out to friends and family members for relief or you enlist the help of professional services, you can and should take breaks to attend to your own needs.
- Set Realistic Goals — Taking the time to map out your days and break large tasks into smaller, simpler steps can make your life much easier. Prioritize your daily tasks, make priority lists and establish a daily routine that doesn’t leave you feeling exhausted every evening.
- Stay Connected — Seek out caregiver resources in your community and build a network of people you can rely on. It may also be helpful to join a support group where you can socialize with other caregivers and provide support for each other. Additionally, it’s important to make time for friends and family, even if you just meet up a few times a month for coffee and a chat. Your personal connections can be a great source of strength and support that improves your caregiving.
- Set Personal Health Goals — To keep yourself in good working order, you need to set goals that will help you establish a good sleep routine, stay physically fit and enjoy a mental detox as often as needed. Don’t forget to keep up with your own doctor’s appointments either. Your physical and mental health is crucial to your ability to be a good caregiver.
Discover More Caregiver and Family Resources at The Sterling Aventura
At The Sterling Aventura, we know better than most how vital quality care can be for older adults. That’s why we offer a wide variety of resources for anyone interested in learning more about the benefits of making the move to a supportive living community. Supportive living can help mature adults who need help with daily tasks or support for dementia live stronger lives while relieving the burden on caregivers.