Well…how much does a feather weigh? If you were to hold a feather in your hand, it might seem insubstantial. It shouldn’t be difficult to hold it in your hand, palm up, and arm extended for several minutes. But, what if you continued to cradle it in your hand, unsupported, for an hour or a day or a week or a month? What seemed weightless at first soon becomes too heavy to grasp. Stress related to caring for a loved one is just like that, too. Eventually, it becomes more than one can endure.
Stress affects all of us. It’s something that most folks consider to be just part of life. Some deal with stress better than others, and each of us in our own way. But, chronic stress – the day-in-day-out stress related to the pressures of caregiving- can have serious consequences.
According to The Family Caregiver Alliance, 30-40% of dementia caregivers suffer from depression and emotional distress. Other effects of stress on a caregiver’s mental and emotional health include decrease in quality of life, greater risk for cognitive decline, and increased feelings of anger and irritability.
Family caregivers experience significant changes in their physical health, too. Some common health concerns include digestive problems, frequent headaches, and a greater propensity of viral infections. Chronic stress also increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes, as well as other serious medical problems.
- To reduce or prevent some of adverse effects of stress:
- Join a support group
- Exercise on a regular basis
- Talk to a qualified mental health professional
- Make time for pleasurable activities
- Be socially active and stay in touch with friends
- Explore stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation or tai chi
- Pay attention to your body’s responses
- Make your emotional and physical health a priority
Research shows that caregivers are able to provide better care, when chronic stress is handled effectively.
by Pam Kovacs Johnson