Caregivers give of themselves to care for the ones they love.
Only after giving themselves fully to caregiving may they — or their families — wonder how does stress affect health . . .
When Nancy first started caring for her elderly parents, she thought the extra errands and helping them with their housework were no big deal.
As her parents’ needs increased, more and more caregiving for them cut into the time Nancy would spend with her husband and children.
Between her busy job, young family and caregiving for her parents she truly felt pulled in all directions. And time for herself became nonexistent. She even found herself skipping meals and losing weight while trying to get everything done.
She no longer enjoyed or found time for knitting and crocheting.
Increasingly worried about her parents and getting her own “To Do List” done led to many sleepless nights and recurrent headaches.
To add to her concerns it seemed as though she had one cold after another . . .
Nancy takes care of everyone around her.
And in her caregiving she’s lost enough time for herself . . .many hours of restful
sleep . . .regularly eating healthy meals . . .and even getting regular physical activity.
While most caregivers are in good health when they start caregiving, caregiver stress can take its toll.
So, what is caregiver stress?
It’s the emotional, physical and financial strains of caregiving.
And how does stress affect health in caregivers?
According to the U.S .National Women’s Health Center research shows that caregivers are at risk for . . .
- Symptoms of anxiety or depression . . .
- A long-term medical problem including heart disease, cancer, diabetes or arthritis . . .
- Higher levels of stress hormones . . .
- Taking longer to get over an infectious disease and not having the influenza (flu) vaccine work properly. . .
- Wounds healing slowly . . .
- Obesity, and . . .
- Possible mental decline including memory problems and paying attention.
Is that all?
Actually that’s just what research shows.
And the “possible mental decline” is because the research has not shown a statistically significant connection. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there, just that research hasn’t proven it to the scientists’ satisfaction. . .yet.
Other research shows that caregivers are twice as likely as the general population to be depressed or have a heart attack.
Caregivers like Nancy may be too busy to take care of themselves.
Even though Nancy is living with stress-related health issues, she’s too busy — or too
tired — to consider how does stress affect health.
Stress can raise your blood pressure, which in turn can increase the chances for a stroke, heart attack or heart disease.
Stress can also cause digestive problems, allergies, and skin rashes.
It can even interfere with your immune system, affecting the ability to fight infections and certain other diseases and conditions.
Stress is not always bad . . .
While when you’re driving along and a small animal darts in front of your car, the resulting stress causes you to avoid an accident by slamming on the brakes.
But long-term stress can adversely affect your physical and mental health.
The chronic release of hormones meant to protect you in a crisis situation can lead to increased blood sugar, increased weight, or loss of weight in some people, high blood pressure, heart racing, and more.
What can you do to prevent caregiver stress from affecting your health?
- Recognize the risk.
- Get help so you’re not doing it all yourself. Caregiving is a marathon not a sprint. Whether you need help with the caregiving or for your own needs, take care of yourself.
- It’s okay to take care of yourself first. You may have to take acre of yourself before you can help the ones you love.
If you get ill and cannot provide care for the ones you love, will their health suffer?
As a caregiver you are responsible for both your own health and that of the ones to whom you’re giving care . . .
And sometimes you truly do have to put yourself first to give them the best care possible.
Are you stressed and so busy it’s hard to find more than 5 minutes to yourself?
Then you’ll be interested in this new program to relieve stress in 5 minutes!
It’s a package that even includes a 5 minute relaxation audio to help you relax easily and quickly. Click on this link for more information.
Bibliography: “Can Caregiver Stress Affect My Health?” The National Women’s Health Center, last accessed April 10, 2011.
Keep knitting to your heart’s delight — or someone else’s,
Ina Gilmore M.D. (ret.)
“The Knitting Dr.”
Ambassador of Elder Care, HowToLiveOnPurpose.com
Founder, CaregivingWithPurpose.com and TheKnittingYarn.com
The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not replace information or recommendations from your own physician or other health care provider. This site does not advocate medical or other health-related self-care, and encourages you to obtain advice from your own personal physician or other health care provider.
This web site is not intended to replace medical, financial, legal, or any other professional advice. Please use your own good judgment and consult with your own professionals before applying any ideas found within this website.