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Caregiver Stress: It’s Not in Your Head

Caregiver Stress: It’s Not in Your Head

April 22, 2022

Stress, it’s a natural psychological response that we all deal with. However, when you’re a caregiver, that stress becomes compounded. 

Nearly 20% of Americans are caregivers and provide unpaid assistance to others, typically family members. Whether it be grocery store runs, transportation to doctor’s appointments, or supporting daily activities (e.g., dressing and bathing), caregivers provide immense emotional and physical support that is valued at over $450 billion per year.

What makes caregiver stress different?

Stress is a natural part of everyday life. It is one's emotional and physical response to environmental pressures. You can experience it anywhere: at work, at home, or anywhere in between. 

Caregiver stress layers upon one’s daily stress and can be triggered in a number of ways: 

  • Uncertainty of disease state, progression, and prognosis. 
  • Lack of knowledge and understanding about providing care and the support resources available.
  • Constant pressure because of the assumed nature of the role.
  • Changed family dynamics due to a shift in roles and responsibilities with loved ones.
  • Unexpected increase in expenses to cover medical bills, extra food, special equipment, etc.
  • Jealousy from loved ones and friends who no longer receive as much time and attention as they are accustomed to.
  • Isolation and loneliness because you no longer have the energy or motivation to pursue activities that bring you joy, while also never feeling alone because you’re constantly on call.

How do you manage caregiver stress?

The demands of the often inherited caregiver role can be taxing to the actual caregiver, so it is no surprise that nearly 1 in 5 report their health as fair or poor. 

Here are some common practices to help manage caregiver stress: 

  • Seek out experts + ask questions. 
  • Learn more about care and conditions, don’t be afraid to ask questions to help you better understand the situation at hand.
  • Plan, be proactive and get organized.
  • Ensure you an have emergency and backup plans outlined for support.
  • Be proactive and prepared by having essential paperwork(e.g. wills, DNRs, care preferences) in order. 
  • Have a set schedule for doctor’s appointments, keep medication lists handy, and set boundaries for grocery shopping, outings, etc. – especially if you have a full-time job.
  • Find community resources + support groups.
  • There are free resources available for you. Here are a few of our favorites:
  • Alzheimer’s Association
  • Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
  • AARP
  • A Place for Mom
  • Caregiver Action Network
  • Family Caregiver Alliance
  • As hard as it may be, know your boundaries and prioritize yourself and your needs. 
  • Don’t forget to socialize with others and do activities that bring you joy.
  • Maintain your health with sleep routines, regular exercise ,and healthy eating habits. Try to reduce or avoid tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, all of which can make the symptoms of stress worse.
  • See your doctor regularly.
  • Consider offloading responsibilities not directly related to caregiving.  
  • Hire a cleaning service to come in each week or sign up for a subscription meal service.
  • Consider using telemedicine services to avoid the struggle of transportation to the doctor’s office or hospital. At Tembo Health, we provide comprehensive care for seniors via telemedicine. With programs for monthly care coaching sessions and on-demand urgent care visits, we help provide caregivers extra peace of mind. 
  • Leverage programs like Respite Care + FMLA.
  • Respite Care is short-term care that is offered at home, in a healthcare facility or an adult day center and can provide some relief to caregivers.
  • Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you may be eligible to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year.

Being a caregiver is a huge responsibility and It is noble of you to take on this role for your loved one. You might feel you can do this all yourself and maybe in the beginning you can, but that doesn’t mean you should. 

Leverage resources, carve out time for your needs, and give yourself grace because remember, you can’t help anyone if you’re not taking care of yourself.

Disclaimer: 

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. All calculations provided in this article are using publicly available data and should not be taken as absolute. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

References:

  1. Caregiving in the U.S. 2020: National Alliance for Caregiving
  2. Caregiver Statistics: Family Caregiver Alliance
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Caregiving

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