Approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child with an illness, injury, or disability in the past year. Caregiving can be rewarding, but it can also be challenging. Stress from caregiving is common, and women especially are at risk for harmful health effects from caregiver stress. These health problems may include depression or anxiety. But there are ways to manage caregiver stress.
Who are Caregivers in the U.S.?
Upwards of 75% of all caregivers are female and may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than males, according to the Institute on Aging. Men may be sharing in caregiving tasks more than in the past, but women still shoulder the significant burden of care. Studies indicate that 36% of female caregivers handle the most challenging caregiving tasks—bathing, toileting, and dressing—when compared with 24% for their male counterparts, who are more likely to help with finances, the arrangement of care, and other less burdensome tasks.
Who Gets Caregiver Stress?
Anyone can get caregiver stress, but more women caregivers say they have stress and other health problems than men caregivers. And some women have a higher risk of health problems from caregiver stress. Caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia are more likely to have health problems and to be depressed than caregivers of people with conditions that do not require constant care. Women who are caregivers of spouses are more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol and are twice as likely to have heart disease as women who provide care for others, such as parents or children.
Women caregivers also may be less likely to get regular screenings, and they may not get enough sleep or regular physical activity.
What are the Signs of Caregiver Stress?
Caregiver stress can take many forms. For instance, a caregiver may feel frustrated and angry one minute and helpless the next. They may make mistakes when giving medicines or turn to unhealthy behaviors like smoking or drinking too much alcohol.
Other signs and symptoms include:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling alone, isolated, or deserted by others
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Gaining or losing a lot of weight
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Easily becoming irritated or angered
- Feeling worried or sad often
- Having headaches or body aches often
What Can I Do to Relieve Caregiver Stress?
Taking steps to relieve caregiver stress helps prevent health problems. Also, taking care of yourself enables you to take better care of your loved one and enjoy the rewards of caregiving.
Here are some tips to help prevent or manage caregiver stress:
- Learn ways to help your loved one better. Some hospitals offer classes that can teach you how to care for someone with an injury or illness. To find these classes, ask your doctor or call your local Area Agency on Aging.
- Find caregiving resources in your community to help you. Many cities have adult daycare services or respite services to give primary caregivers a break from their caregiving duties.
- Ask for and accept help. Make a list of ways others can help you. Let helpers choose what they would like to do. For instance, someone might sit with the person you care for while you do an errand. Someone else might pick up groceries for you.
- Get organized. Make to-do lists and set a daily routine.
- Take time for yourself. Stay in touch with family and friends, and do things you enjoy with your loved ones.
- Take care of your health. Find time to be physically active on most days of the week, choose healthy foods, and get enough sleep.
- See your doctor for regular checkups. Make sure to tell your doctor or nurse you are a caregiver. Also, tell her about any symptoms of depression or sickness you may have.
Creekside Center for Women in Springdale, Arkansas provides the best health services for women in all stages of life in Northwest Arkansas. From Gynecology an Obstetrics to Hormone Therapy, Birth Control, and Pregnancy, our dedicated staff is here to care for you with dignity, respect, and privacy. Call us at 479.582.9268 today.
- Find your local Area Agency on Aging.
- Family Caregiver Alliance: https://www.caregiver.org/Office on Women’s Health: https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/caregiver-stress
- Dementia Caregiver Support Group—Fayetteville: https://www.meetup.com/Fayetteville-Dementia-Caregiver-Support-Group-Meetup/
- Alzheimer’s Arkansas Support Groups: https://www.alzark.org/support-groups/