Caring for an ill loved one can be stressful, even traumatizing. In fact, caregivers for ill loved ones can be in danger of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to the psychological and physical stress of caregiving—also known as caregiver stress syndrome. If you suffer from caregiver stress syndrome, realize that there are ways to help manage it and find the support you need.
Symptoms of Caregiver Stress Syndrome
While we generally think of PTSD as a condition soldiers get after experiencing combat, research has shown that it can also affect caregivers. Sufferers feel burned out and angry by the experience of being a caregiver.
Symptoms of caregiver stress syndrome include, but aren’t limited to:
- Feeling resentful of caretaking responsibilities
- Overreacting to minor nuisances
- Overindulging in alcohol, food or smoking
- Neglecting your own needs
- Constantly exhausted
- Difficulty sleeping
- Compromised immune system
If your loved one has passed away, you may still feel caregiver stress syndrome, in conjunction with the guilt or belief that you could have done more to care for them during their illness.
Seek Professional Help
If you think you’re suffering from caregiver stress syndrome, it’s essential that you seek professional help. There, you can get properly diagnosed and provided with resources to help you manage the condition, including participation in a support group. A professional will help you:
- Recognize what you’re feeling
- Focus on what you realistically can and cannot control
- Learn methods of relaxation and other self-help methods
Find a Support Group
Support groups can help you realize that you’re not alone and that many people are in the same situation. There, you and others will help each other validate each other’s feelings and make connections. They can be led by either a professional or organized by someone who also suffers from the condition. There are resources available to help you find a support group near you.
Put Yourself First
Taking sole responsibility of the care of a loved one is very difficult, and more often than not, damaging—especially if you don’t have a senior care support network. That’s why your well-being comes first. If you cannot take care of yourself, you run the risk of not being able to properly care for your loved one. That can be dangerous for both of you, because if you’re exhausted, then you may forget an essential part of their care, like medication management.
Spread the Responsibility
Don’t be afraid or too proud to ask for help. No one can do everything themselves, so if you need a break, take one and don’t feel guilty. There are many senior care services available where you can take a break and not have to worry about the care of your loved one: