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Coping With Caregiver Stress


Have you heard the term “caregiver” and wondered exactly what it means? Well, you are a caregiver if you provide care to a person who has a chronic medical condition. A chronic illness is a long-term illness that is usually not curable, but can be treated with medical treatments, medication, and lifestyle changes. Some examples of chronic conditions are cancer, stroke, multiple sclerosis, dementia, diabetes, and Alzheimer's disease. While we tend to think of “care giving” regarding our aging relatives, there are persons of all ages with disabilities or serious health problems.

Caregivers can be family members, close friends, or individuals who are employed caregivers who come to the home. A whole new home healthcare industry has recently grown to take care of our aging population who wish to remain at home. Relatives are often the ones who chose to take care of the needs of their loved ones. It is some-times a more demanding and stressful task than a person realizes when they first become a caregiver. The special medical, physical, emotional, and psychological needs of the loved one may prove to be more than the caregiver anticipated.

Caregivers must pay attention to their own physical and emotional health. If they do not, they will not be able to help the loved one they are caring for each day. To relieve stress, each person must find their own outlet for stress. Here are some ideas which can help better deal with that caregiver stress:

1. confiding in a friend

2. physical activity

3. knowing your limits

4. asking for help

5. setting realistic goals for care giving

When the caregiver stress intensifies to a feeling of being completely overwhelmed, caregiver burnout can be a risk. Some warning signs include:

1. withdrawal from friends, family, and other loved ones

2. feeling blue, irritable, hopeless, & helpless

3. changes in appetite, weight, or both

4. changes in sleep patterns

5. getting sick more often

6. feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring

7. emotional & physical exhaustion

If those symptoms develop, it is time for the caregiver to seek help for their own well-being and support in caring for their loved one. There are many groups and agencies to help caregivers. Among those which provide resources and guidance are:

1. Your local Area Agency on Aging. If you are unable to find a phone number, call Eldercare at 1-800-677-1116 for your local chapter’s phone number.

2. National Institute on Aging www.nia.nih.gov

3. National Family Caregiver’s Association www.nfcacares.org 1-800-896-3650

4. Eldercare www.eldercare.gov 1-800-677-1116

Caregivers face a variety of challenges in caring for a loved love with a chronic illness. Stress and burn-out are issues which must be dealt with by caregivers. Remember caregivers…We must take care of ourselves first to be healthy enough to provide the loving care we want to give others.

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