Stress manifests differently in each person and because of various life developments. One person may find staying home to care for a loved one a nice break from going to the office each day, whereas another might find being at home with someone who needs help to eat and get dressed much harder than their usual job.
Stress can result in a lack of sleep, a twitchy eye, an upset stomach, being irritable or some other symptom that does not enhance well-being.
Surveys have found that family caregivers tend to have more stress than those who are not providing care to a loved one, and the stress will increase in relation to the care needs. In other words, those caring for someone with higher needs—maybe 24-hour assistance—will be more stressed than those caring for someone who might need a little help, like a ride to the grocery store weekly.
If you’re a family caregiver and wondering if you’re stressed out, see if anything on this list from the United States Department of Health & Human Services Office on Women’s Health sounds familiar:
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling alone or isolated
- Gaining or losing a lot of weight
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Feeling worried or sad a lot
- Becoming easily irritated or angry
- Experiencing headaches or other body aches frequently
Prolonged stress can affect the immune system, memory, and mental health so experts suggest finding ways to relieve stress. Family caregivers might ask another family member, friend or neighbor to take turns with them, or consider hiring a professional caregiver. There are support groups in person or online for caregivers providing different types of care, such as a group for caregivers for those living with Parkinson’s disease. Simply making time to do something enriching such as see a movie, walk with a friend or play tennis can provide benefits, many experts say.
Get more information on resources for caregivers from the Office on Women’s Health.