By Sandy DelVillano-Marchi, LMSW
|Stress Associated with Caregiving|
|Common Signs that Caregivers May Need Help|
|Tips for Preventing Caregiver Stress|
|How Social Workers Can Help|
According to the National Family Caregivers Association, more than 50 million people in the U.S. this year will provide care to a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend. Although caregiving for a loved one has been practiced since the beginning of time, but only recently have we begun to pay attention to the effects that caregiving can have on the caregiver.
Caregiving poses many challenges for the caregiver. The mental, physical and emotional responsibilities can often make the caregiver vulnerable to feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation. If the feelings surrounding the sometimes overwhelming responsibilities are not addressed the may begin to show signs of excessive stress and tension.
Although caregiving can be a wonderful gift for someone, it can also be a daunting task and you cannot be expected to know it all. If you do not take care of yourself, you will not be able to care for others.
Caregiving can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion and it may affect anyone who provides a great deal of caregiving. A caregiver may feel a constant tension and preoccupation with the suffering of the person being cared for. If this tension is ignored it can lead to further anxiety and even depression.
- Abusing drugs and alcohol
- Increased anger
- High anxiety/onset of anxiety attacks
- Blaming spouse/significant other and family for your problems
- Chronic tardiness
- Overwhelming sadness
- Diminished sense of self
- Mental, emotional or physical exhaustion
- Look out for your own needs. Make your concern for your own well-being a priority.
- When others offer to help, you can tell them specifically what they can do for you such as going to the grocery store, doing the laundry, etc.
- Educate yourself about the person’s health condition and the resources available.
- Talk about your concerns surrounding caregiving with other trusted individuals or a therapist
- Since caregivers may suffer feelings of loss, they should give themselves time to grieve.
There are many highly trained social workers available to help caregivers. Many have a strong knowledge base and experience in dealing with individuals who may be suffering as a result of caregiver stress.
Social workers can offer emotional support and understanding regarding a person’s role as a caregiver. They can help caregivers become involved in community agencies that offer help caregivers such as respite care, meal programs, and transportation services.
Some social workers specialize in services for senior citizens, running support groups for family caregivers or for the adult children of aging parents, advising older Americans or family members about choices in areas such as housing transportation, and long-term care, and coordinating and monitoring these services.