As a caregiver, you can experience stress in your role when you find it difficult to perform your role optimally, or find yourself stressed by situations. Prolonged caregiver stress can lead to problems with your physical and emotional wellbeing. Chronic stress releases stress hormones that lead to exhaustion, irritability, a weakened immune system, sleep disturbances, digestive distress, headaches, and changes in weight.
Caregiving is rewarding but stressful
Caregiving can have many rewards. For most caregivers, being there when a loved one needs you is a core value and something you wish to provide. But a shift in roles and emotions is almost certain. It is natural to feel angry, frustrated, exhausted, alone or sad. Caregiver stress — the emotional and physical stress of caregiving — is common. People who experience caregiver stress can be vulnerable to changes in their own health. Risk factors for caregiver stress include:
- Being female
- Having fewer years of formal education
- Living with the person you are caring for
- Social isolation
- Having depression
- Financial difficulties
- Higher number of hours spent caregiving
- Lack of coping skills and difficulty solving problems
- Lack of choice in being a caregiver
Factors that can contribute to caregiver burnout are:
Many caregivers are often thrust into the role of caring, disrupting the other roles or commitments that you have such as caring for younger children, or working. It can also be confusing to distinguish your role as a caregiver from being a spouse, child, relative, or friend to your loved one.
Lack of control
It is common for caregivers to feel uncertain about the progression of the disease, your ability to address the care needs at different points of the care journey, the options for treatment or support available, and financial choices and concessions. These lead to frustration and a sense of helplessness.
Even with modern medicine, not all diseases are reversible. Your loved one may find it harder to recover to the state that they were in before they fell sick. When the condition of your loved one deteriorates, you may find it hard to accept or blame yourself for not doing enough. You may expect yourself to bear the sole responsibility of caring and feel stressed when you are unable to manage the demand.
Tips to Help You Cope
You are not alone in your caregiving journey. The emotional and physical demands involved with caregiving can strain even the most resilient person. That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of the many resources and tools available to help you provide care for your loved one. Remember, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for anyone else.
- Manage your tasks better – Break the tasks into smaller parts and set realistic goals, make a list of important tasks and set up a care routine. Reach out for help if you encounter limitations.
- Get support from your family – Recognise your own strengths and capabilities. Gather your family members to discuss and delegate tasks to reduce the caregiving burden on yourself. Find out more about Family Support and Discussion.
- Plan your finances – You have to learn how to budget your own expenses, and check out the various financial assistance schemes that can defray the cost of care. If you have financial difficulties, talk to a social worker about grants and schemes.
- Practice Self-Care – Be aware of caregiver stress and burnout signs. Learn more about self-care tips. Find small humour in daily interaction with your loved one and have a hearty laughing moments with friends. Here’s how a hearty laugh can lead to better health. Consider quiet time for yourself or plan to organise peer support sessions and get-together. Find out more about Caregiver Pod. Consider respite options to take a break from caregiving.
- Seek professional advice – Consult your healthcare professionals about the disease progression, care option for your loved one and how to care for him/her at home. You can also approach them if you feel overwhelmed with your caregiving duties.
You aren’t alone
If you’re like many caregivers, you have a hard time asking for help. Unfortunately, this attitude can lead to feeling isolated, frustrated and even depressed.
Rather than struggling on your own, take advantage of local resources for caregivers.