Darrelle M. Volwiler, Ph.D.
Family caregivers are increasing in numbers in our country and are changing family roles and dynamics rapidly. Being in the role of caregiver creates new stressors that you may not have been prepared for.
When a person is under stress, the body’s ability to function can be affected and may lead to long term health problems and/or psychological problems such as depression.
¨60% of caregivers are in worse health than those they are caring for.
¨Caregivers are at a high risk for burnout, depression, and other illness, elder abuse, loss of friends, and strained relationships with family. Elderly spousal caregivers who experience emotional strain have a 63% higher risk of dying than non-caregivers.
¨An estimated 46-59% of caregivers are clinically depressed. Caregivers are more likely to use medications for depression, anxiety and insomnia.
¨1/2 of caregivers receive no assistance.
Signs of Caregiver Distress
♦ Physical signs such as muscle tension, stomach ache, a tight throat, an increase in heart rate, headaches, sweating, sighing, high blood pressure, or an increase in colds and flu.
♦ Psychological signs such as a decreased interest in activities, social withdrawal, sadness/depressed mood, anxiety/worry, frustration, anger, despair, ambivalence, confusion, grief, appetite changes, sleep problems, exhaustion/fatigue, or escape fantasies.
What to Do To Avoid Becoming A Statistic:
¨Join a support group
¨ Talk to friends or family members and let them help you
¨ Invite people at church or other groups to provide support.
¨ Try seeing an individual therapist or go with family members
Caregivers are often reluctant to ask for help which increases stress, anxiety and depression. Please utilize resources and let others help you. Some examples of help that you may be able to find here in the senior directory include:
♦ Household assistance such as cleaning, cooking, shopping and laundry
♦ Home care companions or nurses
♦ Adult day health programs
♦ Help from family and friends
♦ Care management companies to assess needs and get help on board
♦Information and community talks through local non-profit agencies
Look at Your Beliefs
Have you said any of the following statements?
“My mom is unhappy so I must not be doing a good enough job”
“It’s wrong to feel resentful about all the work I’m doing”
“I just can’t get it right no matter what I do”
“I have to do it all myself or I am a bad daughter/spouse”
If you are struggling with thoughts that make you feel bad, you are probably losing perspective and need to look at more helpful ways to think about your situation.
Take Care of Your Mind and Body
♦ Allow yourself to experience feelings and know they are normal and okay
♦ Be realistic and plan ahead when you can – don’t over schedule
♦ No matter how hard it is to arrange, take some time for you, increase social and pleasurable activities.
♦ Delegate whenever possible
♦ Expect family discord and emotional reactions from others
♦ Eat well and exercise!!!
♦ Learn a formal relaxation technique and do it
♦ Get more sleep than you are getting right now
♦ See your doctor regularly
♦ Don’t be afraid to try counseling to help with adjustment, anxiety or depression.