Written by EURO LIDER organization
Caring for the elderly is a demanding job that is not only physically but also mentally demanding. What is the Caregiver’s Stress Syndrome? What body signals should make you more alert, how to deal with it and where to seek help?
Caring for the elderly is a job that is not the lightest. It often leads to burnout syndrome. As a result of exposure to chronic stress related to the responsibility for the health and life of the patient, the caregivers often develop depression and neurosis, experience anxiety, have problems with sleep, headaches, spine and heartaches, as well as gastric ailments such as stomach ulcers or indigestion. The most common syndrome of burnout, i.e. psychophysical exhaustion, affects caregivers who look after an elderly person alone. The situation in which the caregiver literally loses his strength may occur after 3-6 months of constant, intensive care for an elderly person.
It is worth knowing what to pay attention to and how to protect yourself from the consequences of overburdening yourself with obligations in the care of a caregiver, regardless of whether you provide professional care or look after a sick or elderly person in the family.
Caregiver Stress Syndrome – causes and symptoms
Caregivers for the elderly who devote themselves completely to their duties, giving up their lives and the right to rest, are at risk of developing the Caregiver Stress Syndrome (CSS). It is nothing more than a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that occurs in people who are constantly caring for an elderly or chronically ill person. Round-the-clock care, assisting with almost all the daily activities of the senior, giving up one’s own social and professional life, and finally limiting the daily space only to the house or room of the sick person and loneliness in caring – this is a short path to frustration and fatigue, which with time worsen and turn into a series of ailments. What symptoms should make you alert?
Caregiver Stress Syndrome – emotional and mental symptoms:
• fear of being responsible for another person
• stress resulting from lack of knowledge about caring for an elderly / chronically ill person
• feeling powerless and lonely
• constant tension and nervousness
• apathy, deepening sadness
Caregiver’s Stress Syndrome – somatic symptoms:
• physical exhaustion, chronic fatigue
• problems with sleep and concentration
• pain ailments (head, neck, spine, joints, heart)
• gastric discomfort
Exposure to chronic stress also weakens the immune system, and ignoring some disturbing symptoms can lead to the development of serious diseases, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
How can I deal with Caregiver Stress Syndrome (CSS)??
First of all, make sure you have a balance between your duties and rest. Your rest, during which you regenerate your own strength, is just as important as the rest of your mentee.
Here are some tips on how to take care of yourself to minimize Caregiver Stress Syndrome (CSS)
- Don’t forget about yourself
When caring for the other person, remember that you also have needs and limitations, as well as good and bad days. To work efficiently, remember to rest and recuperate.
- Eat well and stay hydrated
A balanced diet and the right amount of water are essential. Losing yourself in duties, it is easy to forget about your own meal or reaching for a glass of water. Try not to make it a habit. Eat regular meals, preferably every 2-3 hours, and drink water as often as possible
- Movement is healthy!
Physical activity has a positive effect on mood and well-being. You may think that movement is the last thing you are missing if you are constantly doing something every day, assisting the senior in most of their daily activities, but the point is to choose the form that is right for you, preferably outdoors. Even short but regular walks will improve your mood and relieve tension in muscles and joints. You don’t want to or can’t leave the house? Turn on YouTube and enjoy free exercise tutorials on the mat.
- Talk about the difficulties
Difficult times, bad days, feeling unwell – it happens to everyone. So that the depressed mood does not turn into anything more serious, try to talk about your difficulties on a regular basis. It may be someone close to you, but you can also always ask for help from specialists such as a psychologist or therapist. Take care of this especially if you work as a carer abroad – this is where the longing for your family comes in. A few minutes of talking to your loved ones will cheer you up and help relieve stress.
- Learn, read and improve yourself as a caregiver according to the principle of more knowledge, less stress
Often the cause of the caregiver’s dissatisfaction is stress resulting from the lack of knowledge about how to deal with the charges’ ailments. If you work as a caregiver and travel abroad with a responsible employer, you can count on Nursing Support, but sometimes access to knowledge can be more difficult. Therefore, online courses and tools can come in handy, e.g. Here4U Erasmus+ Project.
The ability to relieve stress in the profession and the role of an elderly caregiver is an extremely important feature. Taking care of your own well-being and taking a distance sometimes costs a lot of effort, but allows you to function better, protects against dangerous ailments and ensures a healthy relationship with the person you care for.