Care giving, while rewarding, is extremely taxing on the mind and body. When so much of your energy and time is spent directly on another, it is common to forget to take care of yourself. In fact, you might even forget what it is like to function without doctor appointments, medication reminders, or sleepless nights.
Instead of telling friends and family that you are overwhelmed, the intention is to ignore or fail to recognize the problem until we are fully stressed.
That was my problem. So to avoid this pitfall or to make it easier, Haley Burress states there are 5 signs to look for in yourself, or in your caregiver friends, that can signal a need for a break or some extra help:
- I’m exhausted…all the time:
Caregivers are tired often. Parents are up with sick or fussy kids and survive on extra cups of coffee throughout the day. A husband can’t snooze in the afternoon when his sick wife does because he needs to complete the laundry. Being tired often is part of caring for someone. However, being exhausted all the time, with no relief, is a sure way to make a caregiver sick or unable to physically handle stressful situations. Watch for physical signs of exhaustion like dark circles under the eyes or consistent yawning. Listen for verbal cues of exhaustion like repeating questions or not paying attention to conversations.
- I’m on an emotional roller coaster…and I can’t get off:
Is your optimistic friend suddenly angry all the time? Does your calm mom seem antsy and nervous lately? When we become overwhelmed, it can take a toll on our emotions. Extra caregiver stress without a break can lead to emotional disruption. It can feel awful when you are too tired or stressed out to cope with your own emotions. These emotional outbursts can even lead to some scary stuff like abuse if no one steps in to help.
- I’m not hungry:
Stress often affects our appetite. A caregiver’s weight can be a tell-tale sign of their stress coping skills. Sudden weight gain or weight loss should lead you to asking your friend how she is doing and if you can help. A great way to help a caregiver is to bring over a meal to share.
- I don’t know how you can help:
Well rested caregivers are able to delegate tasks and tell people how they can help. Well rested caregivers keep in contact with their support systems and coordinate help when they need it. An overwhelmed caregiver cannot express what he or/she needs and finds it too difficult to concentrate on tasks like care delegation. Consider setting up a safety net to help your friend get the help she needs without having to ask for it.
- I am sick all the time:
Getting sick every once in a while is common for any of us, including caregivers. However, the overwhelmed caregiver is consistently stressed out and her body cannot keep up with the stress. Overwhelmed caregivers are sick often, whether with a headache, a case of bronchitis that just won’t go away, or potentially something more serious.
If you, or your friend, are showing signs of being overwhelmed, don’t wait until it gets worse to step in and help. Chances are, a few hours of respite care can help get your friend back on track. Be honest with your assessment and tell your caregiver friend that you think she is overwhelmed. Then, give her tangible ways that you are going to help.
Helping caregivers is just as important as helping the patient. Remember, the little things help a great deal.
Thank you all for helping out and joining the dialogue on this important issue of care giving. It certainly hits home. Again, your tips and suggestions add tremendously to this community.
As always, I am…a calmer Boomer Explorer.