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Managing Caregiver Stress

Managing Caregiver Stress

Caregiving for loved ones can be both tough and transformational. Managed well, caregivers report that the opportunity to give back contributed to a sense of personal growth, meaning and purpose, strengthened the relationship with the care recipient, and provided comfort in knowing that their loved one was receiving attentive and compassionate care. And yet—we hear the warnings of caregiver stress and burnout. Indeed, much has been written about the toll it can take on our physical, emotional, and mental health, with collateral impacts on our family life, work demands, and personal self-care. Manifestations of stress and burnout include reduced sleep and increased exhaustion, depression, feelings of anger, frustration and guilt, irritability, difficulty concentrating, lower immune response and susceptibility to colds and flu. It is not unusual for caregivers to operate in a sense of denial, believing that they are handling it well and are able to continue to sprint this marathon…until they can’t. I can relate to all of these issues – especially the denial! I remember well working full time, and with my brothers, providing support and care while our parents were in and out of hospitals, with time spent in intensive care units and on life support for periods of time. Then came their release from hospital and need for ongoing home care without the benefit of 24/7 nursing care in a hospital. “I’m fine – I’m doing ok,” was the typical response to folks asking how it is going. In hindsight, I can see that I was not fine. Although I put on my ‘taking care of business hat,’ I was exhausted, scared, and feeling that...