Caregiver Stress Syndrome

March 10, 2008 by  
Filed under Archives, News

For the last 3 months since my aunt died, I have been extremely fatigued, moody, and not interested in much except the dogs. I know that all the driving over the 8 months was stressful and made me stay awake for 24 hour stints sometimes 2-3 times a month besides my live-in caregiving. I am trained as a sport psychologist so I know that I have been mildly depressed. I also gained about 15 pounds in my midline which I also know can be due to cortisol from stress. My immune system has been compromised as I notice that the smallest of scratches is hard to heal. I did not eat well while caregiving and did not notice until the last few months that I was stressed. I never thought about my own health at the time. As long as I could stay focused, positive, and wakeful at night to listen for my aunt I just figured I would catch up on my sleep and relax whenever my role was done; however it might end. But that has not been the case. I am still fatigued and having a very difficult time losing the weight I gained because I don’t have the energy still to exercise. People need to realize that they could get chronically ill from caring for a family member if they don’t care for themselves. Weight gain can lead to diabetes, heart disease. Lack of sleep has horrible repercussions. I do believe that my inability to “just bounce back” is due a lot to the side effects of sleep deprivation. The information on caregiver stress discusses many of these issues. We are no good to anyone if we don’t care for ourselves. Some of us still have elderly parents that will eventually need caregiving and we must be prepared for that role. At least I have learned from experience that my health is equally as important as the family member that I will be caring for. I assume that this type of syndrome probably does not only affect family caregivers. I have spoken to social workers and they believe that many paid caregivers see their health deteriorate due to the responsibilities associated with long term caregiving. It makes me wonder if there should be a special caregiver health insurance because many people quit their jobs or don’t have jobs while they provide care to family members.

There is a debate going on as to whether the medical community should officially acknowledge this condition as Caregiver Stress Syndrome (CSS) as shown in the CNN link below.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/conditions/08/13/caregiver.syndrome/index.html

The National Women’s Health Information Center provides an excellent article on different aspects of Caregiver Stress:

http://www.womenshealth.gov/faq/caregiver.htm

If you know someone who is a primary family caregiver you should provide them with some information about the problems associated with lack of sleep, bad eating habits, prolonged stress, and lack of mental and physical stimulation. I found that I kept my mind busy with the DS Lite Brain Games. They were frustrating but kept me away from the TV and my emotionally draining thoughts.

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