Physical signs of caregiver stress

By Jonathan Acton - jonathan.acton@homeinstead.ie

"If I could just get some good sleep, maybe I wouldn’t feel so tired all the time and this headache would go away." – Michelle (57), Mullingar.

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.

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, diarrhoea)

• 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.

Emotional signs of caregiver stress

"I’m so scared I’m not going to be able to get everything done. I can’t believe no one will help me! It makes me so angry. I’ve never felt so alone and out of control before." -Anna (44), Westmeath.

The emotional experiences involved with providing care can strain even the most capable person. The resulting feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, isolation, exhaustion – and then guilt for having these feelings – can exact a heavy toll.

It’s important to recognise the emotional signs of caregiver stress.

Take a look at the following list and see if any apply to you:

• Anxiety

• Depression

• Moodiness/mood swings

• Butterflies

• Irritability, easily frustrated, road rage

• Memory problems and lack of concentration

• Feeling out of control

• Increased substance abuse

• Phobias

• Argumentative

• Feeling of isolation

• Job dissatisfaction.

Noticing the way stress affects you physically is sometimes easier than seeing how it is affecting you emotionally.

You may want to think about how your spouse or children are reacting to you. If you’re more grumpy than normal, they may let you know, or may just avoid you altogether.

Consider talking with a healthcare professional that can help you to evaluate your situation.

Remember, it is not selfish to focus on your own needs and desires when you are a family caregiver.

In fact, it is important that you take initiative with your own physical and emotional care, or else it could make you less useful to the person for whom you are caring

For more help or information, please contact us on 04493 85260.

Home Instead Senior Care, Marlinstown Office Park, Mullingar