When Caregiving Stress Takes a Toll

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Don’t doubt for a moment that caregiving can take a lot out of you. If you don’t take care of yourself, your body might force you to give it up!

It started a few months ago. Daddy got sick and then he got sicker. Mama was doing everything she could think of to get him better. Then for seemingly no reason at all, Mama started breaking out all over her face and arms. I took her to the ER and they gave her ointments and salves. She improved . . . but the stress she was under was too much.

For the third time in almost as many months my mama’s face looks like she’s been in a fire. No kidding! Her face is beet red. It’s harder these days for her to keep up with all the needs. I do what I can. I fix meals and do the shopping. As far as the day-to-day caring for my daddy, she won’t take help from anyone. It’s also beginning to take a toll on her memory and hearing. Both have gotten worse over the past six months.

Health Consequences of Caregiver Stress

According to the WebMD website, a study of over 700 caregivers taking care of their spouses found that the caregivers had a 23% greater chance of having a stroke. The study said that caregiving stress doesn’t seem to affect the heart but does create a greater risk for stroke and the researchers do not know exactly why. So that’s another reason to do what I can to help my parents if I can get my mama to let me!

In another WebMD article, researchers found that many caregivers often suffer from depression. Again, the researchers aren’t completely clear on why, except many caregivers neglect their own needs and health problems while caring for a loved one. They often don’t get enough sleep, eat well or take time to exercise. They also neglect to see friends and go out for any kind of socializing. Any and all of these problems can be life threatening.

These are more reasons for me to keep a close watch on my mama. She has become more negative of late and I know it’s the stress talking. She’s also up and down a lot at night helping Daddy with one problem or another. She rarely drives and often doesn’t leave home for months at a time.

Coping with Caregiver Stress

For caregivers of a loved one with mental health issues, the stress can be even greater. Other problems add to the stress such as financial problems or a loved one who has a volatile temperament. Our family is fortunate not to have to deal with these but there are always other problems that arise.

If you’re the primary caregiver, please take care of your own needs before you also experience physical and mental health problems. If a family member or friend is the main caregiver, do what you can to help. Take over a meal. I put my parents’ meals in freezable containers so they can keep them on hand for when Mama doesn’t want to cook. Offer to give them a few hours off even if it’s just for them to take a nap or a walk. Do their shopping for them. Call them to check in on what needs they may have. Even little things that you can do can make them feel they’re not alone. That can make all the difference!

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