Caregiver Stress: Common Stressors And How To Cope

Senior citizens are often in need of specialized care services to assist them in coping with certain disabilities that they may face in their years as elderly individuals. Both mental health issues and physical limitations are often present in the elderly. Fortunately, there is a large number of caregivers that focuses on easing the burdens that the senior citizens have to face on a daily basis.

While caregivers play a critical role in the well-being of elder individuals, these healthcare providers are often faced with daily stressors. The stressors tend to pile up and may eventually lead to complications in the caregiver, potentially affecting their personal health and even their ability to continue providing care to the elderly.


The Daily Stressors Caregivers Have To Face

Today, at least one in every eight people in the United States are older than 65 years. Just a few decades ago, the elderly (age 65 and older) accounted for merely 10% of the population in the United States. The increasing lifespan leads to more elderly individuals in need of care services. This is where caregivers come into the picture.

Caregivers have to realize that there are several stressors that they are likely to face on a daily basis – particularly when they decide to provide care services to the elderly population.

The stressors that may play an obstacle in a caregiver's life often stems from the mental health problems that are commonly found among elderly citizens. Some common mental health concerns that senior individuals tend to face include:

  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress

The presence of depression, anxiety, and high levels of chronic stress are often traced toward the development of physical disabilities in the elderly. As a person ages, they become more prone to falling. When the elderly fall, they face a risk of fractures and broken bones. This is due to the weakening of cartilage and bones that naturally comes with older age.

The mental health of the elderly is not all that may contribute to stressors in a caregiver's life. The exposure to the conditions that some of the elder individuals may face can take its toll on the mental well-being of the caregiver too.

Physical limitations may also add additional stress. Many older individuals are physically incapable of caring for themselves. With this in mind, the caregiver may often need to perform many functions for the elderly – and there are inconveniences that may be faced in the process.


Recognizing Stress And Burnout Among Caregivers

Caregivers need to be wary of signs that they are under too much stress. Failure to recognize such symptoms can lead to what is commonly described as caregiver burnout. This situation may lead to unpleasant complications, including a significant reduction in the caregiver’s abilities during their day-to-day tasks.

Some important signs of caregiver stress that should be recognized include:

  • Difficulty with focus and concentration
  • A general tired feeling
  • The caregiver may feel “run down."
  • The development of symptoms associated with depression
  • Anxiety
  • Easily becoming irritable
  • The unexpected development of new health problems
  • Existing health issues may become worse
  • Minor nuisances in the caregiver’s life may cause them to overreact
  • The caregiver may also find it difficult to sleep properly
  • Some caregivers may start to neglect their responsibilities
  • They may also start to reduce their interest in leisure activities

Some caregivers may also feel exceptionally exhausted and frequently become sick. The recurrence of flu is due to the impact that stress has on their immune system. There is also a risk of increased drinking and smoking among caregivers who suffer from large amounts of stress.


How Caregivers Can Take Care Of Themselves

When a caregiver notices the signs described above, they need to ensure they take appropriate steps to help reduce the impact of these daily stressors. By taking action quickly, it is possible for the caregiver to avoid suffering from burnout – which can sometimes lead to serious complications.

Here are a few effective strategies that may assist a caregiver in reducing the impact that their job may have on their own well-being:

  • The first step is to understand that what an elderly individual with Alzheimer’s disease and other mental conditions say to a caregiver is often not personal. The elderly often feel frustrated with their limitations and disabilities. This leads to irritability and other mental problems – which can cause them to throw around insults that really have no personal meaning behind them.
  • A person practicing as a caregiver chose this career for a reason. They should embrace their role in the healthcare system with open arms. If necessary, the person should take a look back at what the reason was for them to become trained as a caregiver in the first place.
  • There are many things out of the caregiver’s control when it comes to overseeing the care of the elderly. At the same time, some things are in the control of the caregiver. The person cannot control how the elderly respond to certain things. On the other hand, they can control how they react to such factors.
  • A caregiver should ensure they take some time for themselves. Taking off once-in-a-while to spend a day at a spa or perhaps just unwind at home is something they deserve. By allowing time for themselves, the accumulation of stress may not have such an impact on the caregiver.

Final Words

Caregivers are faced with many stressors and obstacles in their careers within the healthcare industry on a daily basis. The stressors often stem from the mental health problems that elderly patients are suffering from. Caregivers do need to realize how they can continue providing care to the elderly without suffering in the process. Taking time for themselves is critical, along with the other tips that we shared in this post.