CAREGIVER STRESS MAY INDICATE A NEED FOR HELP
An article in the New York Times discussed the psychological costs of caregiving and of making difficult care decisions, which some professionals are likening to the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. Caregivers may experience symptoms like "intrusive thoughts, disabling anxiety, hyper-vigilance, avoidance behaviors," and more. Rita Vasquez attributes these symptoms not only to the pressures of caring for someone with dementia, but also to the disruptions to normal sleep and eating patterns that result when one is spending so much time on caregiving: "When the brain is always on alert, many things are going to happen — you’re not going to eat well, your nutrition is going to go down," and physical health suffers. The emotional, mental and physical toll of caregiving can be particularly pronounced for spouses of those who need care. In one of the families Vasquez works with, the wife and primary caregiver is 80 years old. "She’s taking care of her 85-year-old husband and it’s draining her," Vasquez says. "When he fell recently, she couldn’t pick him up and had to call the paramedics." In cases like this, it might be clear immediately when the demands of care become too great. In other cases, it might not be so obvious. However, if you are feeling isolated and alone, or if you begin to feel resentful of your loved one, it might be time to examine the source of those feelings, says Vasquez. "Sleep deprivation, anger, resentment, all those things will become part of what happens to a caregiver," she says. "And, of course, the guilt, when you think, ‘I’m not doing enough.’" When that happens, it’s important to recognize how much you’ve been giving to your loved one, and perhaps tell yourself, "Okay, I’m not living a life for myself anymore, I’m living for that person."