The responsibility of caring for a loved one is a common one for midlifers, and often brings with it feelings of anger, confusion, guilt, and stress. Taking care of someone else, especially when it’s a parent or other family member, is no small task. When you’re the caregiver, how do you deal with the stress of it all? Here are some tips.
Signs of Caregiver Stress
According to Women’s Health.gov, caregiver stress is a common occurrence, especially when other family members are not helping you with care. Some of the emotional signs of caregiver stress include:
- Anger that caregiving falls to you solely.
- Frustration with your parent or siblings.
- Guilt that you can’t do more.
- Loneliness when your social time with friends is limited.
Stress can also take a physical toll. Things like weight gain, exhaustion, headaches, and getting sick more often are some of the complaints from caregivers.
Caregiver Stress Is Common
Women are more likely to feel this type of stress, probably because very often they are the ones most likely to be in the caregiver role. Women may have a hard time admitting that being a caregiver is a stressful job, but it’s okay to express your feelings.
Don’t feel as if you’re not being a good daughter or son just because you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. More than that, don’t let anyone else make you feel that way, either. Just because you’re feeling the stress of the situation, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t doing a good job in caring for your parents.
Getting Help for Caregiver Stress
You can get some relief from stress in a variety of ways. What works best for one person may not work for another, so try out a few of these suggestions to see what makes you feel the best. Everyone is different.
- Vacation. Very often caregivers find it very hard to take actual vacation time. See if a sibling or care professional can come in so you can get a week or two off.
- Hiring help. Don’t try to do it alone! There are many paid and unpaid resources available to help with the burden of managing care. It is very difficult for one person to do everything by themselves. Start with a service like Meals on Wheels or contact the local department on aging to see which resources might be available to you.
- Discussing things with siblings. If you have the sole burden of caregiving on your shoulders, it’s time to get your siblings involved. There are many ways siblings can support each other in this, even if they live far away.
- Joining a support group. If your siblings aren’t emotionally supportive, reach out to other people who understand what you’re going through.
Also, make sure to exercise and eat right. It sounds simple, but caregivers often put off time at the gym or skip making a decent meal for themselves because they need to spend more time with mom and dad. A healthy body will help you deal with stress more easily, so be sure to take care of yourself physically.
Caregiving Also Helps Build Self-Esteem
The key to enjoying caregiving is putting it all in perspective and not trying to do it alone. Don’t be afraid to admit that it’s hard at times, or that you need help. Don’t give in to feelings of guilt when you need to exercise and take care of yourself.
If you thought caregiving was all about stress and frustration, think again. Being a caregiver can actually help boost your self-esteem and make you feel more positive about the parental relationship. Caregiving has been shown to provide some of the same benefits that volunteering does, plus the feeling of being needed adds an even more personal level of satisfaction.