In part 1 we looked at things that caregivers could do to relieve stress.  In this article we will look at some of the indicators that show that a caregiver is suffering and in need of help.  As I stated earlier, these ideas are provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

How can I tell if caregiving is putting too much stress on me?

Caregiving may be putting too much stress on you if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • feeling overwhelmed
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • gaining or losing a lot of weight
  • feeling tired most of the time
  • loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • becoming easily irritated or angered
  • feeling constantly worried
  • often feeling sad
  • frequent headaches, bodily pain, or other physical problems
  • abuse of alcohol or drugs, including prescription drugs

Talk to a counselor, psychologist, or other mental health professional right away if your stress leads you to physically or emotionally harm the person you are caring for.

Can caregiver stress affect my health?

Although most caregivers are in good health, it is not uncommon for caregivers to have serious health problems. Research shows that caregivers:

  • are more likely to be have symptoms of depression or anxiety
  • are more likely to have a long-term medical problem, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or arthritis
  • have higher levels of stress hormones
  • spend more days sick with an infectious disease
  • have a weaker immune response to the influenza, or flu, vaccine
  • have slower wound healing
  • have higher levels of obesity
  • may be at higher risk for mental decline, including problems with memory and paying attention

One research study found that elderly people who felt stressed while taking care of their disabled spouses were 63 percent more likely to die within 4 years than caregivers who were not feeling stressed.

Part of the reason that caregivers often have health problems is that they are less likely to take good care of themselves. For instance, women caregivers, compared with women who are not caregivers, are less likely to:

  • get needed medical care
  • fill a prescription because of the cost
  • get a mammogram

Also, caregivers report that, compared with the time before they became caregivers, they are less likely to:

  • get enough sleep
  • cook healthy meals
  • get enough physical activity
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