When you are taking care of a parent, roles can change. You often go from son or daughter to more of a parent yourself. If you are caring for a spouse, you can feel you are losing your identity as a husband or wife. The changes in your relationship can be confusing and painful. The stress of caregiving can negatively impact your relationship, as well as your mental, emotional and physical health.
In the beginning, you might feel quite confident about your ability to care or provide support for a cherished loved one. But as time goes on and their physical or cognitive health continues to worsen, the stress of caregiving can amplify. You’re doing more than helping with chores or taking them to a physician. Caregiver duties can be continuous: from simple tasks of helping with medications, preparing meals, and scheduling medical appointments to more difficult ones like getting them in and out of chairs or the bed, bathing, dealing with incontinence, preventing wandering or other harmful behavior, and so on. Sometimes regardless of the support you are providing, the grind of daily or weekly caregiving responsibilities can be taxing on your well-being. It’s not just the things you’re doing for your loved one that can take a toll, it’s the time and responsibility that can change the nature of the relationship with your loved one.
What the Stress of Caregiving Can Do to You and Your Relationships
Exhaustion affects emotions. We all want to feel as though we can do everything for our loved ones. When the reality is, each person has their limitations. Being a part- or full-time caregiver often means rarely getting enough sleep at night or rest during the day, especially if you are still working or have other obligations. Helping a husband or father transfer from a bed to a wheelchair multiple times can eventually lead to physical injury and ongoing pain.
You’re tired. Your emotions are raw. Your thinking becomes affected. When you are not rested enough, or physically able, to meet the needs of your spouse or parent, the stress of caregiving can trigger emotions and feelings that can fracture a relationship.
Stress can lead to resentments. Constantly worrying about a spouse’s safety and comfort can feel like a weight on your shoulders—with no escape. It’s only natural to feel some resentment toward other family members who may not be present in the caregiving. Or, towards friends and acquaintances who seem to have ‘disappeared” now that you could use their help. And while unsettling, it’s perfectly normal to resent the person you are caring for. As roles change, you can both love, and be frustrated with, a person at the same time.
Guilt is not good for you. Sometimes it can feel like you’re not doing enough. Or you feel guilty because you do resent your wife or husband for needing so much help. You feel it’s wrong to have these feelings. Perhaps you’ve known a friend who seemed to be a superhero in caregiving, and you don’t think you measure up. All this is bad for you. In fact, unresolved caregiver guilt can lead to depression, anger, insomnia, digestive issues, poor overall health or destructive behavior, either towards the person needing the care or self-harm.
Chronic stress is bad for your health. According to the Mayo Clinic, some stress is good for us all. But when a person feels constantly bombarded with stresses that don’t go away, the “fight or flight” reaction in the body never stops. That leads to too much cortisol being pumped through the body, which can disrupt all the systems in the body. Your risk increases for anxiety, depression, headaches, muscle pain, digestive problems, sleep issues, weight gain, heart disease and more.
You may find yourself becoming ill. The stress of caregiving often leads to physical and emotional problems. According to Family Caregiver Alliance, 40% of family caregivers of people with dementia suffer from depression. Up to 35% of family caregivers view their health as fair to poor. Caregiver burnout can rob you of sleep, sap your energy, and leave you vulnerable to illnesses.
How to Get Your Relationship Back
More rest, getting help from others and taking frequent breaks can make a big difference. But if you are supporting a senior whose mental or physical condition is declining, the road ahead will be a challenge.
However, there is an option that could be right for you and your family, while offering your loved one an improved quality of life.
Senior Living: A Solution for the Stress of Caregiving
What if there was a way for your husband, wife, mom, or dad to live more comfortably, surrounded by caring, supportive people who were available 24 hours a day, in a setting designed especially for their safety, enjoyment and wellbeing?
And what if there was a way your loved one could have all these things, and you could get back to just being their spouse or son or daughter, so you could really enjoy your time together again and bring new energy and affection to each moment?
Senior living can help you do all that—it might be the choice that not only frees you from the stress of caregiving, but also restores your relationship and opens up a new world of possibilities for your loved one. At Clearwater Living, we have created an atmosphere of support and opportunity in which aging adults thrive. We would love to tell you more.