Taking care of your loved one is rewarding, but it can also take a significant toll. To take care of yourself and, hence, to give the best support to your loved one, you will need to watch for signs of excessive stress.
Symptoms that indicate that you may be close to emotional overload include:
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Feeling blue, irritable, or even hopeless
- Losing or gaining weight
- Change in sleep patterns
- Frequently becoming sick
- You may even feel like you want to hurt yourself or the person in your care
There are ways to keep yourself mentally, emotionally and physically fit for the task:
- Talk to a trusted friend, co-worker, family member or healthcare professional about your feelings and frustrations.
- If you need more professional help or counseling, talk to a therapist, social worker or member of the clergy. Also, don't hesitate to contact your local association to explore how they may be of assistance.
- Set reasonable goals and consider that you may need help from others.
- Be realistic. Set reasonable expectations about your loved one's disease, especially for conditions like Parkinson's, ALS and Alzheimer's that worsen over time.
- Set aside time for yourself. You do need to take care of yourself.
- Use respite care services that offer qualified caregivers who can give you a break. Help can range from a few hours a day to full-time, live-in support.
- Stay healthy by eating properly, exercising and getting plenty of sleep.
- Accept your feelings. For example, feeling frustrated or angry doesn't mean you are a bad caregiver or person.
- Join a caregiver support group and share your feelings and experience with others in the same situation. Talking with others who are in the same boat can help you to manage stress, find and access helpful resources while keeping you connected to others.