Dr. Sherry Simon, a clinical psychologist and parishioner at Christ the King Church in Little Rock, said she sees caregivers several times a week who fill various roles, from caring for an elderly parent to a disabled child. Because people are often thrust into a caregiving role, Simon said it’s important to remember that all of life’s other stresses — work, family, etc. — do not go away.
“Oftentimes it takes a long time to recognize their stress and to do something about it,” she said.
According to Caregiver.org, studies show about 46 to 59 percent of caregivers are clinically depressed. Simon said there are several signs that indicate when a person may be too stressed, many of which are also signs of depression:
• Sleep deprivation
• Weight loss or gain
• Increase in blood pressure, cholesterol
• Increase in alcohol, tobacco or other drug use in an attempt to “self-medicate.”
• Decrease in energy and not taking pleasure in activities a person used to enjoy
• Increased isolation
If any of the above symptoms are unremitting or a caregiver experiences increased irritability or impulsive anger, memory loss or concentration problems and panic attacks, they should seek out therapy, Simon said.
For caregivers needing to de-stress, Simon offered some tips:
• Take short breaks daily: “So many people get absolutely obsessed with staying with the person,” but taking breaks is healthy. “Simply walking outside and being in nature, take a moment to be outside, be aware of the sun on your face.”
• Ask family or friends for help: “People are hesitant to ask for help but for someone to come in … and just watch (the person being cared for) while taking a nap so they can take a break, that can be very helpful.”
• Go to the doctor: It’s important to make sure a caregiver makes time to go to a doctor to make sure their own health is not jeopardized, Simon said.
• Be aware of emotions: “Oftentimes they just repress all” the sadness, anger, etc., but they need to “be aware of their emotions and not shut them down or think they don’t have time to listen to their own feelings.”
For more information and resources, visit Caregiver.org.
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