Signs of Caregiver Stress and What To Do
Being a home caregiver can be stressful in many ways; it can be physically exhaustive, mentally challenging, and emotionally draining. It’s hard being responsible for someone else’s well-being all the time while maintaining a positive composure. Although you may be accustomed to taking care of others, it’s important for you to take care of yourself too.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide on the top signs of home caregiver stress and what you can do to remedy the situation.
Top Signs of Home Caregiver Stress
Overreacting & general irritability
Feeling resentful towards the person under your care
Neglecting certain duties
Lack of interest in things you once enjoyed
Weight gain / weight loss
Headaches / chronic pain
Smoking, increased drinking, or drug use
Anger and Irritability
If you start feeling more irritable and show anger and frustration towards the person under your care when they need you, this is a sign you are too stressed. Because you’re already in a heightened state of distress, your reactions may be harsh and hard to control. Once you start to feel annoyed with someone under your care, take that as a sign that there’s something going on with you, rather than blame them.
As a caregiver, you will encounter difficult behavior with dementia patients. Seniors who have dementia can be repetitive and appear to be defiant, but it’s important to always remember where they’re coming from. Normally caregivers understand the needs and limitations of their patients, but when you start to feel stressed, it can be easy to forget that they have a different perception of reality than you.
When you’re stressed, everything can feel like a chore, even things that you once enjoyed a lot. Stress drains your energy and can limit your capacity to see the value in things that require further effort. Being overwhelmed with emotional and physical labor can sometimes make it hard to maintain a social life, and soon you start to withdraw from friends and family. This can start to make you feel more lonely and isolated, or even alienated by others.
You may tell yourself that you don’t have time or don’t feel up for socializing after a tiresome, long day, but you need to prioritize this time because it’s important to maintain healthy relationships. For example, try organizing a dinner with a loved one every week on the same night. Establishing routine can help make space in your schedule for important needs that get overlooked.
Under the intense stress that comes with their role, home caregivers can experience anxiety in many forms, including feeling worried and under pressure all the time. Anxiety can make it hard for you to concentrate, while for some, it can make you a total control freak. It’s important to notice that the root of this anxiety comes from intense responsibility and/or the home caregiver’s feeling of helplessness.
As a home caregiver, you may feel anxiety about doing various errands you’re normally used to and have more trouble staying organized. Even small tasks can frazzle you when you’ve got a lot on your plate. If you are a family caregiver, you may feel anxiety about the future in regards to all the responsibilities you have, as well as anxiety about the future of your loved one. In general, sometimes it can be hard to accept the realities of the role or profession.
You don’t want to be forgetting appointments, or making mistakes with medication. To help manage caregiver stress better, try making to-do lists and establishing a routine. Getting organized is a mindful way to find peace and tackle responsibility.
We all need to feel like we're doing a good job. If you feel like you need to be motivated by encouragement, try acknowledging and rewarding yourself for your own efforts. If that's not enough, try talking to a friend or loved one who will listen and support you. You don't have to struggle alone!
When you're a caregiver, nothing is meaningless. However, when you're feeling stressed or depressed, your work can easily feel overwhelming and even small tasks can feel cumbersome. This can lead to feelings of helplessness and apathy. You may feel unmotivated and unable to see the meaning of your work, let alone the reward of doing good work.
If you start allowing yourself to feel negatively towards your caregiving work, it can snowball pretty quickly. It helps to practice staying positive and optimistic. When you start to feel yourself turning sour, try to talk yourself out of it and redirect your mind towards a more healthy attitude. Being positive and optimistic makes you a better caregiver and studies have even shown that caregivers who perceive more benefits from caregiving report lower levels of depression. It's important for caregivers to always keep in mind that they are making a difference.
Chronic stress often goes unchecked and can affect many aspects of life, including our physical health. If left unchecked, it has the ability to worsen other conditions you may have. For example, chronic stress weakens your immune system, which means you might be more susceptible to more illness. Stress in the body means there is potential for inflammation, which could worsen conditions like arthritis or headaches, for instance.
When it gets to a certain point with caregiver stress, you stop taking care of yourself. You’re tired all the time, everything requires effort, and after taking care of someone else all day, you just want to relax. However, sometimes we don’t quite recharge the way we’re supposed to because our habits aren’t letting us.
Caregivers need to eat well, stay hydrated, get exercise, and rest. A healthy diet and sleep schedule is incredibly important for home caregivers, since it’s a high intensity role that requires you to be on your feet and mentally active day in, day out. On the flip side, if you’re feeling overly depressed, you may be getting too much sleep which can also make you feel worse and affect your caregiving ability.
Stress can lead to other harmful habits like smoking, increased drinking, or drug use. If you don’t take proper care, the stress will lead to further health conditions for yourself.
Consider whether there are ways that others can help support you, ask for that help, and let someone else do something for you. It helps to connect with other caregivers in your community and/or online to find general support for caregiving or for relatable advice from others who care for someone with the same illness or disability. It's likely they've encountered similar problems and felt similar frustrations, which can help you feel less guilty, stressed, or depressed.
How To Beat Caregiver Stress: Keep Loving What You Do
If your life revolves around caregiving, but it doesn’t give you satisfaction, every day can seem laborious and unfulfilling. Being a home caregiver will be empowering if you take the right steps.
As you can see, there are many positive aspects of helping others that can help caregivers overcome the negative effects of stress related to the work. However, caregiving can take a toll on your well-being if you don't take proper care of yourself, take time to recharge, or have the right attitude. If you are struggling to discover the best things about being a caregiver, we hope this article can give you insight on how to find your purpose. At Alegre Home Care, we have measures in place to ensure that all of our home caregivers always feel supported.