Barb couldn't get a handle on her life.
Her three children were growing, but seemed to need her more than when they were little. Her oldest was in university, and the next in her last year of high school. Barb couldn't imagine paying for two in university. The youngest was into soccer and band and church activities, and seemed to always need a drive somewhere.
She worked full time, and did the books for husband's business. He worked long hours, and was seldom home to help with chauffering or housework.
Her parents were elderly, frail, and needed more of her time. Her father had his license taken a few months ago, and they needed her to take them shopping and arrange rides to church. Because they were becoming isolated, they called her several times a day. It was becoming evident they needed to move somewhere where they could get more care. Barb was trying to look into places, but her parents were resistent to moving, and wouldn't go with her to look at any of the places she found. The thought of cleaning out her parent's house in order to sell it gave Barb a headache. Her siblings lived out of town and weren't much help.
Barb hadn't been sleeping well lately. She had been losing weight, and when her friends asked her out for a "girl's night", she declined. She was too busy, too tired, too stressed.
Barb has caregiver stress. You may think she is an extreme case, but the fact is, there are hundreds of "Barbs' out there. You may know one. You may be one.
We are all familiar with stress, and it's not always a bad thing. Stress keeps us alert, and there are times (such as meeting a deadline)
when we function best under stress. I always study for exams best under stress. But stress, when it is unrelenting, can kill you.
Caregiver stress has many forms. It's the pressure of too many demands on your time. It's having to make difficult decisions, and the uncertainty of wondering if you made the right one. It's the nasty surprises that come without warning when there is a change in your loved one's health. It's the exhausting day-to-day sameness of a situation that is never going to get better.
How do you know if you are experiencing caregiver stress?