Providing care for older adults is a rewarding line of work—albeit a sometimes demanding one. That’s why we love what we do at Sunset. However, we know that not all caregivers are trained professionals. Many people serve as informal caregivers to their loved ones. We recognize that for those individuals, the physical and emotional requirements of caregiving can prove extra challenging. Indeed, 38 percent of family caregivers describe their roles as highly stressful.
At Sunset, we believe it is essential for informal caregivers to understand the potentially debilitating effects of stress—and how to recognize and cope with its emotional strain. After all, taking care of yourself ultimately allows you to take better care of your loved ones.
Family caregivers often experience wide-ranging sentiments—such as sadness, grief, or guilt—that can lead to anxiety and tension. Spending too much time in stressful situations puts your overall health at risk. Therefore, caregivers should understand the early signs of stress. Here, then, are some common stress-related symptoms for which you should watch.
- Feeling overwhelmed or worried
- Feeling tired
- Feeling alone
- Gaining or losing weight
- Becoming easily angry or irritated
- Losing interest in activities you usually enjoy
- Experiencing frequent body pain or headaches
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
As a caregiver, you should realize that it’s common to experience stress, anxiety, and depression—and that high levels of emotional strain over an extended period could result in serious medical problems. If you experience these or other symptoms of stress, read on for some coping tips.
Coping with Stress
Informal caregivers can begin dealing with stress by taking advantage of available resources and coping tools. Here are some suggestions for handling the challenges of caregiving and—in the process—reducing the likelihood of stress.
Ask for help. It is perfectly acceptable to ask others for help when caregiving becomes too stressful. Most family members and friends would not expect you to shoulder the caring burden all alone. Many would eagerly help if they knew you needed it. Whether it’s running an errand, cooking a meal, or tackling a household chore, help from others frees up your time for providing direct caregiving. So don’t be afraid to ask.
Set daily routines. Another way to reduce stress is to build consistency in your caregiving schedule. Establishing activity patterns helps you stay organized and manage your time more efficiently. Once you create a routine, be sure to stick with it.
Continue enjoying your favorite activities. As a caregiver, be sure to make time for yourself. Keep up with activities you enjoy doing—and with the people who you enjoy being around. Doing things that make you happy can help you relax and temporarily escape the pressures of caregiving.
Take a break. It is essential to step away from caregiving now and then. Much like a vacation from work, everyone needs an occasional break from caregiving. Many care facilities provide short-term respite services where you can rest assured that your loved one receives topnotch care in your absence.
Take care of yourself, too. While caring for your loved one’s health, don’t lose sight of maintaining healthy eating habits, exercise programs, and sleep schedules. You’ll need to be in good shape to be an effective caregiver.
Seek professional care. If being an informal caregiver becomes overly stressful, hiring a professional might be the best option for you and your loved one’s long-term health. Consider how an assisted living community such as Sunset House or Sunset Village could help.
Caregivers, whether professional or informal, can experience challenges and situations that could seem overwhelming. Therefore, a critical part of caring for other people’s wellbeing is looking after your own.
The tips listed here are suggestions for keeping the effects of stress at bay. If you experience any physical or emotional symptoms of stress, contact a physician immediately.