The Dangers of Anxiety in Caregiving

Senior and caregiver laughing and relaxing together

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there is a well-established link between being a family caregiver and stress, anxiety, and the danger of physical and psychological health problems. 

In fact, a recent Commonwealth Fund study showed that 60% of family caregiversaged 19-64 surveyed reported “Fair or Poor” healthand one or more chronic conditions or disabilities, compared with only 33% of non-caregivers. 

Likewise, the Family Caregiver Alliance states that those caring for a loved one are more likely than non-caregivers to experience depression and suffer intense stress levels – leading to increased risk of heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure. 

9 Warning Signs of Caregiver Stress and Anxiety

The Mayo Clinic article, “Caregiver stress: Tips for taking care of yourself,” explains that caregiver stress – the emotional and physical stress of caregiving – is common and it is natural for caregivers to feel angry, frustrated, exhausted, anxious or sad. As a result, it is crucial for caregivers to be aware of the dangers of caregiver stress and to be knowledgeable of its signs and symptoms. These include:

  1. Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
  2. Feeling tired often
  3. Getting too much sleep or not enough sleep
  4. Gaining or losing weight
  5. Becoming easily irritated or angry
  6. Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  7. Feeling sad
  8. Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems
  9. Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications

“The good news,” says Janet McNemar, NHA, MBA, Executive Director at Bryn Mawr Terrace in Bryn Mawr, PA, “is that there are specific steps you can take as a caregiver that can reduce your levels of stress and anxiety and protect your health and well-being. Remember, you are important, too, and you can only provide quality care to your loved one when you are at your best.”

Expert Strategies for Dealing with the Stress and Anxiety of Caregiving

The Mayo ClinicThe Cleveland Clinic and womenshealth.gov offer helpful tips for reducing caregiver stress and anxiety, including:

  1. Ask for help from others– Caregiving can be too biga job for any one human being. Therefore, ask for the help and support of other family members, as well as your close friends. They might want to help out with caregiving, but don’t know what to do. Therefore, always be clear and specific in asking others for assistance, e.g.,“Please take mom for her doctor’s appointment next Thursday.” 
  2. Speak with your doctor – Let your doctor know you are a caregiver anddiscuss the stresses in your life and symptoms that could result in burnoutWork with your doctor to create a plan for your ownhealth and well-being and get recommended immunizations and screenings. 
  3. Take advantage of helpful resources – Local programs and community resources can help support your caregiver role and make your life easierExamples include delivering meals, providing transportation, making regular check-in phone calls and helping around the house.

You can contact your local government, Office of Aging, or churches and synagogues to find out what services are available in your area. Also, the U.S. Administration on Aging website and the Alzheimer’s Association® site can help identify services.

  1. Join a caregiver support group – Caregiver support groups can also help reduce your stress and anxiety by providing an opportunity to share your challenges with peers and learn new ways to cope with your stress. 
  2. Use respite care – Respite Care provided at leading senior living communities such as Bryn Mawr Terrace, offers family caregivers a break from caregiving duties and some needed down time. Loved ones also benefit from the care, support and social activities provided in our safe, nurturing environment. 
  3. Stay physically active – Physical activity and exercise can help reduce stress and your risk of chronic anxiety and burnout while improving your overall well-being. Take a walk or do any activitythat will get you moving, whether it’saerobics, dancing or gardening. 
  4. Try relaxation techniques – Stress management experts say relaxation techniques can help relieve your anxiety and your susceptibility to illness. Examples include: Meditation (which can be as simple as dedicating 15 minutes a day to letting go of all stressful thoughts); visualization (mentally picturing a place or situation that is peaceful and calm); breathing exercises (slowing your breathing and focusing on taking deep breaths); and muscle relaxation (tightening and then relaxing each muscle group, starting at one end of your body and working your way to the other end). Daily prayer also provides a sense of comfort, serenity andreassurance for many caregivers. 
  5. Remain socially engaged – Caregivers often find it hard to schedule “me time.” However, staying involved with friends, family, andthe activities you enjoy are also critical to your health and well-being. Social outings with friends for lunch, shopping or a movie, and enjoyable activities such as reading a good book and listening to music can take the edge off of stressand anxiety while helping to protect you from burnout. 
  6. Eat nutritious meals and get enough sleep – A healthy diet and a good night’s sleep can also help to reduce the risk of dangerous burnout.Eat nutritious meals and avoid stress-induced overeating. Also, your sleepis vitalto your physical and emotional health. If you have difficulty sleeping at night, make sure your sleep environment is quiet, dark and cool. Also, avoid using your bedroom for working on your computer or watching TV.

Janet adds, “By recognizing the dangers of caregiver stress and anxiety and taking precautions to minimize them, you can safeguard your well-being and that of your loved one.”

For more helpful senior living and senior care information, we invite you to read our monthly articles and tips on a variety of important senior health topics. We also welcome you to stop in for a tour to see for yourself why we’ve been rated “Best in Senior Care.” 

We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, “The Dangers of Anxiety in Caregiving,” We’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us in our comments section.

A Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness

There are times when the challenges associated with advanced age, a prolonged illness or a chronic condition make 24-hour care and support a necessity. At Bryn Mawr Terrace, we’re always here for you and your family. Our compassionate, professional team treats our residents as family and respects each of them as the individuals they are, all with their own unique life story.

We understand that each one of our residents has unique needs and desires, so we deliver personalized care and services that are tailored to each individual. The amenities and activities offered within our community are designed to keep our residents happy, fulfilled and living well. From delicious dining to a variety of social programming, we offer a lifestyle that’s meant to be lived! 

Located near Bryn Mawr Hospital, Bryn Mawr Terrace – part of Main Line Senior Care Alliance– has provided exceptional care and services to seniors and their families since 1966. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue. 

Today, Bryn Mawr Terrace serves as a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), offering a range of services – including short-term rehabilitationtraditional nursing careindependent living, personal carememory carerestorative care and respite care – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing. 

For more information on Bryn Mawr Terrace and our variety of needs-based lifestyle services, please call us at 610.525.8300 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Bryn Mawr Terrace and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.


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