Mary Alexander: Hi! I am Mary Alexander from Home Instead Senior Care, and today, I am talking about avoiding caregiver burnout. In this video, we will talk about some of the physical and emotional signs that you might be overstressed.
The first step in dealing with caregiver stress is to recognize the signs. Then you can find ways to deal with it and enlist support or medical help when needed. Common signs that stress may be affecting your physical health include; disturbed sleep, back, shoulder, or neck pain, muscle tension, headaches, stomach and digestive problems. That includes upset or acid stomach, cramps, heartburn, gas, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, or diarrhea. Weight gain or loss, loss of hair, fatigue, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, palpitations, chest pain, perspiration, skin disorders such as hives, eczema, psoriasis, ticks, or itching. Periodontal disease, jaw pain, reproductive problems, or infertility. Weaken immune system suppression that results in more colds, flus, or infections, sexual dysfunction or lack of libido.
Emotional signs of caregiver stress include; anxiety, depression, moodiness or mood swings, butterflies in your stomach, increased irritability, getting easily frustrated, or having road rage, memory problems and lack of concentration. Feeling out of control, increased substance abuse, phobias, being more argumentative, feeling isolated, and 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 are more grumpy than normal, they may let you know or may just avoid you altogether.
Many people know how difficult it is to be a family caregiver. So your friends, family, and coworkers may not say anything to you about a noticed change in your attitude or demeanor. However, if you are wondering about yourself, consider asking one or two close friends or family members if they have noticed a difference in you. Their feedback may be just what you need to help put your finger on your symptoms and start getting help. If you are experiencing any of these signs, especially if you are noticing more than two or three, please consider talking with a healthcare professional who can help you evaluate your situation.
Getting support will help reduce stress, as well as reduce the associated physical and emotional risk of ongoing stress. Remember, it is not selfish to focus on your own needs and desires when you are a family caregiver. In fact, it is vital that you take initiative with your own physical and emotional care. If you neglect yourself, it could make you less useful to the person for whom you are caring and it could negatively impact you for years to come.
One study done by Elissa Epel from the University of California found that family caregivers experiencing extreme stress have been shown to age prematurely. This level of stress can take as much as ten years of a family caregiver's life. According to an article in the 'Journal of the American Medical Association', elderly spousal caregivers with a history of chronic illness themselves, who are experiencing family caregiving related stress, have a 63% higher mortality rate than their non-caregiving peers.
Stress certainly causes many physical and emotional changes in our bodies and can also trigger depression. In the next video, we will talk about caregiver depression and ways to cope.