Caring for Yourself While Caring for Others

by Lois Etienne on September 1, 2010

in Caregiver Support

Mother and Daughter Discussing In Home Care in Seattle WAYou’re at work. The phone rings. Caller ID shows it’s your mom. You sigh. Shake your head and wish the call would just go away. You think, “I was just there. What does she need now? How am I possibly going to get my work done?”

Most caregivers have other important and pressing responsibilities, so the added responsibility of caring for a senior loved one is likely to cause both emotional and physical stress on the caregiver. In fact, according to a survey by Home Instead Senior Care, 31% of family caregivers admit they’d like more help.

The first step in dealing with caregiver stress is to recognize the physical signs.

When you’re a caregiver it’s easy to forget about your own needs. After all, you’re a caregiver not a me-giver. Right? Well, yes and no. As difficult as it might seem, you need to pay attention to yourself too. Why? One study done by Elissa Epel from the University of California found that family caregivers experiencing extreme stress have been shown to age prematurely. This level of stress can take as much as 10 years off a caregiver’s life.

So how do you know if caregiver stress is affecting you? Look for these common physical signs of caregiver stress:

  • Disturbed Sleep
  • Back, shoulder or neck pain, muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Stomach/digestive problems (upset or acid stomach, cramps, heartburn, gas, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea)
  • Weight fluctuation (gain or loss)
  • Loss of hair
  • Fatigue
  • High blood pressure, irregular heart beat, palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Perspiration
  • Skin disorders (hives, eczema, psoriasis, tics, itching)
  • Periodontal disease, jaw pain
  • Reproductive problems/infertility
  • Weakened immune system suppression: more colds, flu, infections
  • Sexual dysfunction/lack of libido

If you are experiencing some of the signs listed above, consider talking with a healthcare professional that can help you to evaluate your situation. You are not alone. Getting support will help reduce caregiver stress, as well as reduce the associated risks of ongoing stress.

For more information or to get answers to your questions, please contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office.  We can be reached — anytime day or night – by calling Spokane: 509.835.5898, North King/Snohomish Counties: 425.670.2292or South King/Pierce Counties: 253.943.1603. You can also email us atloisetienne@homeinsteadnw.com

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