Caring for a loved one for any length of time without much assistance can lead to significant stress for a caregiver. But it may be difficult for a caregiver to not only see how that strain affects his or her life, but also how to alleviate that stress in a healthy way.
As the holiday season approaches, many of us will travel from near or far to spend time with family and friends. During this time together, it’s common for many families to realize that a loved one might need additional help at home.
Unfortunately, all of us will grieve the loss of a loved one at some point in our lives. Despite the fact that loss is a universal experience, grief is something that most of our society is uncomfortable engaging, allowing myths to flourish. From the “stages of grief” to wondering why someone isn’t “acting sad” after a death, these myths are part of our culture, and can make it hard for those who are grieving to feel understood and supported.
Assuming the role as a caregiver is a selfless act requiring a level of commitment and patience that can be quite overwhelming. In fact, while caring for a loved one can be rewarding, more often than not, caregivers feel anxious by the amount of care their aging, sick or disabled family member needs.
“Family caregiving cannot be equated to professional caregivers, such as nurses who are taught to remove themselves emotionally after a day’s work,” said Tina Dwyer, RN, Director of Care Coordination for South Shore Health System's Home & Community Care division. “Family caregivers often juggle competing demands with the demands of their own life, which can be quite a challenge."
There are an estimated 65 million Americans caring for a chronically ill, disabled, or elderly family member or friend during any given year—the majority, baby-boomers who are not only managing the lives of aging family members, but also raising children, working full-time jobs, and handling the day-to-day responsibilities in their own lives.
“There is a tendency for caregivers to feel guilty when they are not focusing all their attention on the needs of their loved one,” Tina said. ”Over time, some caregivers may begin to disregard their own health.”
The good news is that through learning the specific signs of caregiver stress, we can effectively build awareness for ourselves and others so that the likelihood of stress-related health implications can be avoided.