As the population ages, more caregiving is provided by people who are not health
care professionals. Approximately one-third of adults in the United States provide
care to other adults as unpaid caregivers.
The demands of caring for an elderly parent, an aging spouse, or disabled child can
result in a great deal of stress. If caregivers aren’t careful, they can jeopardize their
own health and well-being.
There are steps you can take to limit caregiver stress and, also, reclaim a sense of
balance, joy, and hope in your life. By learning to recognize the signs of caregiver
stress, you prevent things from becoming worse. Here are a few red flags to watch
Anxiety, depression, or irritability
Feeling tired and run down
Overreacting to minor nuisances
New or worsening health challenges
Difficulty staying focused
Neglecting personal responsibilities.
You struggle to relax when given the opportunity
You are increasingly irritated or impatient with the person you are caring for
While caring for a loved one will never be stress-free, these tips can help you avoid
the symptoms of caregiver burnout and find more balance in your life.
When faced with the burden of caregiving, you may feel the need to make sense of
the situation and ask, “Why?” You can spend a tremendous amount of energy
dwelling on things you can’t change. Aim to avoid the emotional trap of feeling
sorry for yourself.
Look for the Silver Lining
Stop and think about how caregiving has made you stronger, or how your
relationship with the person you are caring for has grown. Concentrate on the
positive reasons behind your choice to become a caregiver.
Say “Yes” to Help
Do not be shy about accepting assistance from others, when experiencing
caregiver stress and burnout. Make a list of small tasks that others can help you
with, and let the helper choose what they feel comfortable doing.
Learn to Set Boundaries
You are human, and you cannot be everything to everybody. Say “no” to requests
that are draining and stressful, such as hosting or planning a family event.
Take Care of Your Own Health
Those who provide care for a loved one tend to experience high chronic stress and
skimp on self-care— factors that raise the risk for many illnesses. Exercising, eating
well, and getting enough sleep are all important in coping with caregiver stress.
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