Taking care of a loved one can place a very heavy and overwhelming burden on a caregiver. Maybe Dad just needs a little help with running errands and meal prep, or Mom is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease and needs round-the-clock care. Caring for your parents in their elder years requires a level of care and support that is not always easy to provide, especially when balanced against the demands of your own home life, career, and health.
According to Statistics Canada, more than 8 million Canadians provide care. Among regular caregivers, defined as those who spend at least 2 hours caregiving per week, between 21% of adult children reported feeling depressed or experienced health and psychological problems as a result of their role as caregiver. If you or someone you know is a caregiver, here are some common signs and symptoms to look out for that could point to a problem with high levels of stress.
It’s very natural during the early stages of Alzheimer’s that the family caregiver may experience levels of denial in which they refuse to accept that their parent or loved one is in fact ill. Seeing Mom unable to remember your name or your Dad who was once strong as an ox now weak and feeble can be extremely hard to accept.
Once the reality of the situation is accepted, it’s very common for denial to be followed by feelings of anger and frustration. When Mom or Dad begins to struggle with remembering everyday things, or struggles with regular routines, such as getting dressed, anger can easily begin to surface. This is only compounded if Mom or Dad also lashes out with anger at the symptoms of their condition. 42% of adult children caregivers report feeling angry or irritable. Moodiness and irritability can become more easily triggered from simple, everyday occurrences.
Anxiety and Depression
Anger can often fizzle down into anxiety and depression over time. Doubting your ability to properly care and provide the level of support they need can heighten stress and result in feelings of depression. It’s very common to feel defeated and begin to question whether more help is needed.
Sleepless nights of tossing and turning, worrying about Mom or Dad and all of the anxiety and doubt that goes along with it, can lead to exhaustion. According to Statistics Canada, 56% of adult children providing care to Mom or Dad report feeling tired and 36% report sleep problems. As exhaustion builds it can fester into a vicious cycle that can exacerbate each of these feelings.
Loneliness or Isolation
Caring for Mom and Dad can be quite an isolating feeling, especially if you do not have other support and your parent requires round-the-clock care. 18% of caregivers report feeling alone or isolated as the primary caregiver.
And finally, over time as each of these symptoms develop and linger, it can result in physical and psychological health problems for the caregiver. This is when a caregiver reaches a point when they simply can’t recall when they last felt good or happy.
Each of these symptoms is very real and very common for many family caregivers that must endure the hardships of not only providing sufficient support and dedication to a loved one, but also having to witness the decline of Mom or Dad up close and personally. It can be an extremely difficult experience to endure, but it’s important to realize that it’s not something that must be endured alone.
As a family caregiver, you do not have to do it alone. There are resources available to help you provide better support for you love one and care for yourself. Support programs, respite services, tax credits, and more help from family, friends, and the community can help alleviate stress. As much as you want to help take care of Mom or Dad, you must first take care of yourself.