For some, providing care for a loved one is a months, or even years-long commitment that requires pacing and occasional self-evaluation. Don't forget to take time to assess your stress level while you're providing this valuable care.
It is normal to want to put your loved one’s needs above your own, but you are most effective and the least stressed when you take care of your own physical and mental health. Are you familiar with the signs of unmanaged caregiver stress?
For those who may be experiencing some of the symptoms below, there are strategies and resources proven to help you on your journey.
What are signs that stress may not be under control?
- Anxiety about your ability to continue providing care
- Abusing alcohol, drugs or prescription medications
- Spending less time on social engagements
- Weight loss or gain
- Anger toward the person you are caring for
- Forgetting about your own commitments, like appointments
- Denial about the extent of your loved one’s illness
How can you manage your stress levels?
Caring for a loved one should not come at the expense of your own health. Use these methods to manage your stress level before it starts impacting you.
- Tell your primary care doctor about your role as a caregiver and make sure to get regular check-ups. Don’t delay any necessary medical procedures.
- Accept help. Adult day care, in-home assistance and help from friends are often necessary in order to free up time for daily tasks. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, trying to do everything by yourself will leave you exhausted.
- Being well-informed about available resources and new responsibilities that may arise as a disease progresses will help manage your stress.
- Talk to others who are going through or who have gone through caregiving. Many communities have local caregiver support groups, and online caregiving communities are available to anyone. Message boards can be a great way to connect with others who are experiencing the ups and downs of caregiving.
- Be physically active. Exercise can reduce stress levels and improve your mood.
- Maintain realistic expectations of yourself and the help you can provide.
Remember: You are not alone. Take advantage of the advice of experts and those who have gone before you as caregivers. Whether you are a new or seasoned caregiver, we recommend getting acquainted with the deep resources from our partners at Alzheimer’s Association, American Heart/Stroke Association and American Lung Association:
- Alzheimer's and Dementia Caregiver Center from The Alzheimer's Association
- American Heart Association Caregiver Resources
- Support for Caregivers from The American Lung Association
If you have questions about healthcare needs for yourself or your loved one, call 1.866.CARE.KAH to speak with one of our Registered Nurses 24 hours a day, seven days a week.