Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Caregiver stress- pt. 2- How do I know if I have caregiver stress?
The Alzheimer Society is a great resource for caregivers, even if you aren't dealing with Alzheimer's. Their information about caregiver stress is excellent and practical, and I am going to borrow their bullet points, but add my own commentary.
Denial of the disease and denial of the stress are both common. "She isn't that bad. She's just having a bad day. Everyone forgets things. He's sick, but I can see him getting better. He's much stronger today." OR "I can do this. I'm just being wimpy today. There's no one else so I'd better pull up my socks and get on with it."
Denial is pretending, because if I pretend, and I can make myself believe it, the horror of what I am facing won't be so great.
Anger can be directed at the disease, at doctors who don't show the level of compassion I would like, at family members who don't understand, and at the loved one, who can be incredibly frustrating. Anger erupts and is immediately followed by guilt.
It requires effort to get together with friends and family, and effort requires energy. "I just don't have the energy. I have to be here in case something happens. There is no one else."
"What does the future hold? How will I cope? What if I can't deal with this?" I often felt frustrating circular fears. "I can't go on. I can't not go on." Social isolation (which leaves me with no one to talk over my fears) also escalates anxiety. When I have only my own thoughts, without the perspective of a friend, they can get distorted.
"Nothing really matters. I don't really matter. I don't care any more."
The mental stress of what is happening in your mind can wear you out. Then there is the physical stress of trying to keep several balls in the air--family, job, caregiving and other responsibilities. You drag through the day, and all you can think of is how tired you are.
Anxiety leads to sleeplessness, which leads to exhaustion. You drag through the day, but as soon as your head hits the pillow, you are wide awake, worrying about the many issues your caregiver role brings.
Irritability is anger in a grouchy mood. It's a result of all of the other factors, and can lead to hurt feelings and misunderstanding.
*Lack of Concentration
Your head is so full, you can't concentrate on the day-to-day. Every time you try to do a task, you find yourself staring into space, or forgetting what you were doing. You forget appointments although you wrote them down. You wonder if you are getting the disease.
The end result of all this stress is that the caregiver begins to need care. All kinds of physical issues, some of them crippling, begin to manifest.
Caregiver stress is overwhelming and devastating. It's also insidious. You may not feel these things today, or tomorrow, or even next week, but as the stress of the situation increases, you are less and less able to cope. Someone with caregiver stress may not experience all of these symptoms, but even a few of them can make life difficult.
The good news--there is help, and lots of it.
*bullet points from