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Caregiving is a tough job.

Watching a parent age or seeing someone change drastically due to illness can be devastating. Harvard Health reports, “Approximately 70 percent of caregivers indicated they don’t see their doctor regularly because of their responsibilities.” Maintaining your own wellbeing is crucial, but often difficult. If you are not sleeping well, exercising, or feel yourself becoming reclusive, speak to a health care professional about depression. It can hit anyone, at any time.

What is Caregiver Stress Syndrome?

Caregiver stress syndrome is a condition characterised by physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. It typically results from a person neglecting their own physical and emotional health because they are focused on caring for an ill, injured or disabled loved one.

Caregivers put unrealistic expectations on themselves, thinking that they can do it all and refusing to ask for help. There are several factors that can play a role in caregiver stress syndrome. For some caregivers, the stresses of caring for a person who has a debilitating illness, feeling helpless while caregiving results in burnout. For others, the lack of boundaries between their roles as a caregiver and a spouse, child, or other loved one can be challenging. The financial resources needed to care for someone with a long-term illness or disability also contributes to the overwhelm.

What can I do to prevent or relieve caregiver stress?

Taking steps to prevent or relieve caregiver stress WILL help prevent health problems.

Some SELF-CARE tips:

• Staying in touch with family and friends. It’s important for you to have emotional support.

• Asking for and accepting 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.

• Finding caregiving resources in your community to help you. Many communities have adult daycare services or respite services. Using one of these can give you a break from your caregiving duties.

• Taking care of your own health. Try to find time to be physically active on most days of the week, choose healthy foods, and get enough sleep. Make sure that you keep up with your medical care such as regular checkups and screenings.

• Considering taking a break from your job, if you also work and are feeling overwhelmed. Check with your human resources office about your options.

Caregiver stress syndrome does not have to be your reality. While it can have a negative impact on your life and well-being, there are ways to recover, and to be a happier, healthier caregiver for your loved one. By taking time for yourself and focusing on your own needs, you can avoid the perils of caregiver stress syndrome.

Remember that if you feel better, you can take better care of your loved one.