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How Stress Can Affect the Health of Caregivers

by Renee Marcus on 7/10/14, 6:30 AM

Providing long-term elder care ensures that those who aren’t able to care for themselves get the help they caregiver-stressneed, but it can come at a cost in terms of the caregiver’s health. The stress that some caregivers endure can lead to physical and emotional problems, especially in those who both work as geriatric caregivers and care for a parent or older relative on a regular basis. 

Physical Effects of Stress on Caregivers

Caregiving in a professional or personal setting can be a physically demanding job, which is made even more difficult when caregivers don’t have the time or energy to properly care for 

themselves. Caregivers who don’t get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, get routine checkups or exercise regularly can develop physical health problems, ranging from more frequent illnesses due to a weakened immune system to a higher risk of heart disease or another serious, long-term illness due to obesity. 

Emotional Effects of Stress on Caregivers

Providing long-term care can raise the risk of anxiety or depression in caregivers. Common signs of emotional stress among caregivers include feeling overwhelmed, losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable, being more irritable than usual, feeling sad and worrying on a regular basis.   

Additional Stress Factors for Professional Caregivers

Those who care for elderly patients in a professional setting and an elderly family member at home face additional stress factors. A study done by Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center researchers found that geriatric health professionals tend to experience higher levels of disappointment and more emotional conflicts when caring for a family member than informal caregivers. Although professional caregivers cited their training and experience as being beneficial overall, it also resulted in having higher expectations of themselves when providing care for family members, which led to added stress. 

Coping With Caregiver Stress

Caregivers who are experiencing stress that is affecting them physically or emotionally should take advantage of caregiving resources that are available at work. These resources can teach them how to handle caregiving more effectively in order to reduce stress. It’s also important for caregivers to consult their doctor about stress-related health issues, so they can get the treatment they need.

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