Two flights of stairs stretched below me as I juggled my immense black suitcase, a purse and my lunch bag. So far I'd stuffed the suitcase in my car, drove to the station and hauled my bags on and off the train. But now the staircase loomed. Half my journey still awaited me, my shoulders ached and I wasn't sure if I or the suitcase would bump down the stairs next.
I'm notorious for trundling to work with heavy bags, but the day I packed the entire ingredients for Irish Stew for 50 into my oversized suitcase, I learned a valuable lesson. Streaming sweat and screaming muscles are the results of carrying a massive burden alone. The ensuing trauma is real and damaging.
"An oft-cited 1999 study found that caregivers have a 63 percent higher mortality rate than non-caregivers, and according to Stanford University 40 percent of Alzheimer's caregivers die from stress related disorders before the patient dies." 1"What's the alternative? I need to care for my loved one."
You can. The key is to share your burden.
What Does the Trauma Look Like?
Do you consistently feel overwhelmed, angry, irritated or exhausted? Do you feel isolated by your care role, and have you lost interest in activities that used to excite you? Is sleep elusive and are your physical problems mounting?
You may be experiencing care partner stress.
Stress of any kind which comes from many sources and escalates soon becomes a trauma. What kind of symptoms should you look for?
- Depression--everyone struggles with grey days, but when they string together into a continuous stormy sky, you need help
- Continual sickness--Are you always coming down with something, fighting an infection or struggling with an illness?
- Anxiety--is your "worrier" working overtime, so you never have peace?
- Are you gaining or losing weight no matter what you do?
- Stress puts you at higher risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease.
- Trouble focusing. Your thoughts are scattered and you have trouble completing a task because your mind is like a handful of marbles dropped on the floor. You sometimes worry you are developing dementia.
- Excesses which were never a problem before--overeating, alcohol consumption, smoking etc. Looking for relief from stress in the wrong places.
In taking an honest look at the problem, I've painted a bleak picture. If you suffer from several of these symptoms, even if they aren't continual, you need help.
The good news is found in community. You aren't alone. "Tune in" next week as we explore ways to share your burden.
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Care Partner Wednesday--The Shocking Truth About Care Partner Trauma