Providing care to people who need assistance with activities of daily living can be stressful.
Being a caregiver is emotionally and physically stressful. In fact, 38 percent of caregivers consider their caregiving responsibilities to be highly stressful and another 25 percent say that their duties are moderately stressful. Caring for a spouse is the most stressful type of caregiving and caring for a parent is the second most stressful. Providing care for another relative or non-relative is not typically as stressful.
Other factors can cause stress for caregivers. Living with the person receiving care can be stressful, for example, especially if the caregiver spends a high number of hours providing care. Performing medical or nursing tasks adds a layer of stress, as does providing care for recipients with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Providing care for longer than one year is more stressful than providing care less than a year, and performing caregiving duties to care recipients with chronic or long-term conditions can cause considerable physical and emotional strain.
Providing care is physically exhausting and this can cause stress too. One in five caregivers reports a high level of physical strain resulting from their caregiving duties.
The emotional and physical stress of providing care can have negative effects on the caregiver’s health. In fact, 23 percent of family caregivers who provide care for five years or longer rate their own health as ‘fair’ or ‘poor.’ The stress of providing care for a person with dementia can negatively affect the caregiver’s immune system for as long as three years after caregiving ends; a weakened immune system puts the caregiver at greater risk for developing a chronic disease.
Caregiver stress can lead to depression and other mental health issues. Forty to 70 percent of family caregivers experience clinically significant symptoms of depression. About 25 to 50 percent of these caregivers meet the criteria for major depression. The stress of providing care can cause premature aging, taking as much as a decade off a caregiver’s life.
Certain factors can increase a caregiver’s risk of stress. These stress factors include:
- Being female
- Having fewer years of formal education
- Living with the person receiving care
- Social isolation
- Financial challenges
- Providing care for a significant number of hours each day or week
- Poor coping skills and overall difficulty solving problems
- Having little or no choice in being a caregiver
Caregiver Stress Check
The Alzheimer’s Association offers an online Caregiver Stress Check that asks eight questions relating to caregiver stress. The Caregiver Stress Check determines whether you exhibit signs of caregiver stress by assessing the emotional, mental and physical effects of caregiving.
To take the test, caregivers use their computer mouse or pointer to answer yes or no to the questions on one page of the website, and then check their results on the next page.
The eight questions ask if you:
- Feel as if you have to do everything all by yourself, but worry that you ought to be doing more
- Quit engaging in hobbies and activities with friends and family
- Worry about the safety of the individual in your care
- Are anxious about finances and decisions about health care
- Ignore or deny the negative effects that providing care has on you and your family
- Are sad about changes in your relationship with the person in your care
- Sometimes feel frustrated or angry when the individual with dementia repeats things continually and seems to ignore what you or others say
- Suffer from health problems
Alleviate Caregiver Stress
Sole caregivers often feel as if they have to do it alone because nobody understands the needs of the people in their care. Acting as the sole caregiver can leave a person feeling physical, mentally and emotionally exhausted and overwhelmed. Taking even a short break and allowing someone to provide care for a brief time can greatly improve the care that caregivers provide.
The first step in alleviating caregiver stress is to acknowledge that you could use a break. Many caregivers deny themselves respite because they would feel guilty about taking a short rest. Others worry that they are the only ones who can provide the care properly, and that another caregiver could never give the family member the quality care they need.
The truth is that everyone needs a break now and then, especially caregivers, and that some care recipients even thrive from the occasional change in scenery or companionship. Visiting new places and making new friends stimulates the mind and enhances quality of life.
Short Stay and Respite Programs provide the break that caregivers and care recipients need. These programs offer care recipients a comfortable and safe change of pace. They also give caregivers a chance to travel, enjoy a vacation, visit family members, attend a business meeting, or simply take a break from their duties for a short time.
Gull Creek offers a Short Stay Program to provide comfort and engagement while you take a little break from your caregiving responsibilities. Your family member will enjoy a fully furnished private room, daily home-cooked meals and all-day dining, housekeeping and laundry, and assistance with medications. The team at Gull Creek makes sure your family member has everything he or she needs for a safe and enjoyable stay. Contact us to learn more or to schedule a tour.