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Caregiver Stress

Everyone knows that caring for others is stressful. For most people, caring for children immediately comes to mind, but the term "caregiver" has come to more specifically mean someone who cares for aging parents, spouses, friends, or adult children with special needs. Caregiving involves not only the physical and daily needs of persons who are ill or disabled, but also finding resources to meet the needs of loved ones.

What is caregiver stress?

Caregiver stress is the emotional strain of caregiving that results from the unique pressures and demands placed on caregivers. Changes in today’s world, especially the proximity of extended family members, means that caregiving needs are being met in changing ways. Caregiver stress is different than childrearing demands in that caregivers’ tasks usually increase over time as a loved one’s independent functioning diminishes.

What are the signs of caregiver stress?

  • Feeling overwhelmed—general anxiety
  • Being easily irritated, angered or saddened
  • Sleeping problems—sleeping too much or too little
  • Feeling tired or without energy most of the time
  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Changing eating habits—weight gain or loss
  • Having frequent headaches, stomachaches, or other physical problems
  • Feeling role overload—difficulties meeting the other demands in your life
  • Stressing about finances
  • Needing to miss work as you take extra time to for caregiver tasks

What can you do to relieve caregiver stress?

As a caregiver, you are sensitive to the needs of others. You couldn’t do it if you weren’t, but you should always remember to take care of yourself—you’ll need to feel satisfied and generally healthy to best meet the needs of the people who depend on you. Use the following tips to help take care of yourself and relieve caregiver stress.

  • Find out about caregiving resources. In addition to the wide array of medical and social service programs you will access, there are specific programs that can help you find these resources as you educate yourself on what is out there.
  • Stay in touch with friends and family. Social activities can help you feel connected and may reduce stress. Also, friends and family know your needs and are in the best position to help you complete tasks.
  • Prioritize, make lists and establish a daily routine.
  • Find time for exercise most days of the week.
  • Get in touch with other caregivers. These people are experts not only on finding resources for loved ones, but also the vital task of taking care of themselves (the caregivers).
  • Join a support group, especially one designed for caregivers in your particular situation. Many support groups can be found in the community or on the Internet.
  • See your doctor for a checkup, and be sure to ask about any symptoms of depression or sickness you may be having.
  • Try to get enough sleep and rest.
  • Eat a healthy diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low in saturated fat.
  • Take one day at a time.

Want help handling caregiver stress?

The university’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) has counselors who are trained to provide emotional support and direction for people experiencing caregiver stress. The EAP has an eldercare specialist who can help answer your questions and direct you to the community services designed to help you. You can make an appointment with the EAP by calling 512-471-3366.