Alarming Information About Stress and Threats to Caregiver Health and Wellness
Over one in 10 adults in the United States are caregivers for older relatives or friends. In most cases, these adults are providing caregiving assistance to their senior parents. Of these people, 53 percent of caregivers have two or more chronic medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or kidney disease. This is 14 percent higher than the national average, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The grim reality is that these chronic medical issues lower life expectancy for caregivers in the United States. In this article, we discuss the matter of stress and threats to caregiver health and wellness.
General Facts About Overall Caregiver Health and Wellness
There is some important information that caregivers and people considering becoming caregivers for their aging parents need to consider:
- The vast majority of caregivers report experiencing stress, depression, and emotional problems at least twice a month, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The shocking reality is that about 15 percent of caregivers report experiencing these conditions at least 14 days each and every month.
- Approximately 18 percent of caregivers report experiencing 14 or more days of poor physical health each month, according to a 2018 study by Maastricht University in the Netherlands.
- More than 50 percent of caregivers say a decline in their health affects their ability to provide care to their senior parents or other individuals in need of assistance.
- Dementia caregivers report more strain, health problems, and burnout than non-dementia caregivers.
- Nearly 50 percent of caregivers are concerned about the physical strain that comes with assisting a senior parent or someone else. In addition, about 44 percent of caregivers are concerned about the emotional strains of providing assistance to their loved ones, according to a survey from SCAN Health.
Overview of Caregiver’s Emotional Response to Caregiving
Results of the SCAN survey, a year-long study of 1,000 caregivers providing assistance to seniors, oftentimes their parents, demonstrates that caregiving is often associated with guilt:
- 82 percent of caregivers have difficulty saying no, oftentimes as the result of a feeling of guilt
- 54 percent feel guilty about taking a break from their caregiver duties to make time for themselves
- 29 percent spend 40 hours a week or more caring for someone. They feel guilty if they consider cutting back on the time spent providing caregiving assistance. This leads to a lack of sleep and poor professional performance.
- 44 percent of caregivers do not think a loved one would be able to find someone else to provide care
Key Stats, Facts, and Factors Associated With Caregiver Stress
Caregiver stress is an all too common problem that many people have to face at some point in their lives. Whether it’s caring for a parent, spouse, grandparent, or even a friend, it can be an emotionally and physically taxing experience. Unfortunately, the effects of caregiver stress are often overlooked by society as a whole. To better understand this issue, there are a number of factors about caregiver stress to bear in mind:
- Caregiver stress is often caused by the many physical and emotional demands that come with providing care to another person. This can include tasks such as bathing, dressing, feeding, and providing transportation for the patient. In addition to these duties, there may also be significant financial burdens associated with medical expenses and other costs associated with their care.
- Studies have shown that caregivers are more likely to suffer from physical ailments such as headaches and fatigue than non-caregivers due to increased levels of stress they may experience while providing care for another person.
- Caregiver stress can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety due to the intense emotional toll of caring for someone else’s needs 24 hours a day and seven days a week. This leads to less time to focus on one’s own needs or engage in activities that provide relief from stress.
- Many caregivers feel isolated due to having less time available away from their responsibilities than they would like, causing them to feel disconnected from others and unable to find support when needed most.
- Research has also found that caregivers who are married or in a relationship are more likely to report feeling overwhelmed or stressed than those who do not have a partner or lack social support from family or friends.
- Lack of sleep is another common symptom reported by caregivers due to either being unable to get enough rest because of frequent night-time awakenings or having difficulty unwinding at night even after their shift ends if they feel guilty about leaving their loved one alone throughout the night.
- It is important for caregivers to recognize the signs of stress so that they can effectively manage it before it spirals out of control leading to more serious health problems. These can include hypertension and heart disease.
How Can a Caregiver Lessen Stress
As we discussed, stress is an inevitable part of life, especially for caregivers. It can arise from a variety of changes or events in our lives, both positive and negative. In addition to daily pressures, caregivers may also experience additional stress related to their responsibilities of caring for another individual. Fortunately, there are some things that caregivers can do to manage their stress levels and make life a little easier.
It is important for caregivers to remember to prioritize self-care. This can be as simple as making time for leisure activities such as:
- Listening to music
- Engaging in regular physical activity
- Getting enough sleep
- Eating a nutritious diet
- Taking breaks when needed
Self-care strategies such as these can help us to feel more relaxed and energized – which can go a long way towards helping us handle the demands of caregiving more effectively.
Another important thing that caregivers can do is practice mindfulness. Mindfulness refers to paying attention in the present moment without judgment and without trying to change or fix anything. Being mindful helps us become aware of our thoughts, feelings, and sensations in any given moment so that we can better understand them – and how they might be impacting our wellbeing. Regularly engaging in mindfulness activities such as meditation, yoga or journaling can help us develop greater emotional awareness so that we’re better equipped to handle stressful situations with resilience and grace.
Having access to social support is also key for caregivers who are looking to reduce their stress levels. Building relationships with family members, friends, or fellow caregivers who know what it’s like being in the role of caregiver is incredibly important for nurturing our mental health on an ongoing basis. Having someone else who understands the unique challenges associated with caregiving – as well as its joys – provides an invaluable outlet for sharing our worries and concerns about the situation at hand.
Finally, it’s important for caregivers not only to look after themselves but also take time out for fun whenever possible – whether it’s engaging in simple pleasures like watching a movie or catching up with friends over coffee, joining a club, or attending an event focused on something we enjoy doing – such as painting or crafting – or even just having some quiet time alone at home away from all the responsibilities that come along with caregiving duties every day will all help bring some balance into life so that we don’t become overwhelmed by stress too easily.
In conclusion, managing stress as a caregiver doesn’t have to be impossible if one follows steps like prioritizing self-care practices. As discussed, self-care includes such things as:
- Getting enough sleep each night
- Exercising regularly
- Practicing mindfulness regularly
- Tapping into social support systems
- Finding enjoyable hobbies outside of caregiving duties
Doing these small things consistently will help keep stress levels manageable so that you’re better equipped emotionally and mentally able take on whatever comes your way down the road.