I subscribe to an electronic magazine, The Complex Child. Some months it is extremely helpful, while others no so much. This month deals with Caregiver Stress.
Caregiver stress is something we hear about all the time as parents of children with special needs. Though the term is used for all caregivers, it is usually when a parent is the caregiver that we tend to deny it happening.
What is caregiver stress?
Caregiver stress is defined as a condition of exhaustion, anger, rage, or guilt that results from unrelieved caring for a someone who is chronically ill or disabled.
There are three main types of stress, and the first is physical stress, which is just what it sounds like. Caregivers are constantly lifting heavy and cumbersome medical equipment, wheelchairs, other adaptive equipment, and the child. Often, they are not using proper lifting techniques to save their backs, knees, and other muscles/joints. This in not intentional on the caregiver's part, as often there is no clean, appropriate place to change a 12-year-old's diaper, or to cleanly cath a child. The caregiver has to resort to moving in awkward positions, thus putting additional atrain on the body. There is also the physical wearing down of their bodies due to lack of sleep from tending to their child's many needs, and the constant traveling to and from many medical appointments. These things can take much of a toll on the body as lifting ca.
The second is emotional stress, which can have the same physical symptoms as physical stress. Emotional stress is when the caregiver is constantly worrying over money, lack of time, illness or other concerns. A caregiver can have constant guilt over trying to balance the needs of the child with special needs with those of any other children or significant other. Caregivers often feel alone as support groups aren't always at convenient times, or there is not childcare to even go. They can lose their friends as the friends don't understand this "new" life, and even family can shy away in fear of doing something wrong, or not understanding what the caregiver needs. This all adds up to an emotional roller coaster that can negatively affect the health of the caregiver, who often feels isolated and alone.
Lastly is mental stress, which is a little different from emotional stress. Mental stress is the constant worrying over everything you have to do. Did you get the medications correct, forget any appointments, and did you order the correct supplies this month? It also encompasses the worry of juggling school schedules, work schedules, medical appointments, and any other activities. Caregivers often have to make sense of the huge amount of information that streams in and try to figure out what to do next. They are scared and worried about the future, especially what will happen to their children when they are gone.
By: Angela Sittiler