Did you know that according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, caregivers are susceptible to developing depression, anxiety, and a variety of other mental illnesses? Family caregiving is a stressful and overwhelming job. These stressful environments cause family caregivers to engage in harmful behaviors. As a matter of fact, there are multiple mental and physical health effects of family caregiving. As a new caregiver, keep reading to learn more about the health effects of family caregiving and how you can prevent them.
What Are the Mental and Physical Health Effects of Family Caregiving?
According to Richard Schulz’s and Paula R. Sherwood’s research article “Physical and Mental Health Effects of Family Caregiving,” caregiving causes negative mental and physical health effects on family caregivers, eventually affecting their overall health. In particular, in her article “The Mental and Physical Health of Caregivers,” Sandra Galea, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health reported that about 57% of caregivers prioritize their patients’ well-being over their own and 51% of caregivers lack the time to take care of themselves. As a result, family caregivers are prone to developing depression, anxiety disorders, and emotional burnout deriving from feelings of guilt, fear, and stress. Other health effects include:
- A weakened immune system
- Higher risk for obesity
- Higher risk for chronic diseases
- Higher risk for diabetes
- Susceptibility to heart diseases (e.g. high blood pressure and high cholesterol)
- Susceptibility of substance abuse
Mental and physical health effects of family caregiving derive from the financial strain of caregiving, fear of the unknown, stress of taking care of someone else’s well-being, in addition to a lack of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Symptoms of mental and health effects of family caregiving include:
- Increased feeling of isolation
- Increased feeling of fatigue
- Increased feelings of stress and worry
- Increased headaches and body aches
- Problems with sleeping
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Changes in weight
What Can Family Caregivers do to Prevent These Problems?
To prevent these negative mental and physical health effects of family caregiving, you must be proactive. Prioritizing your health is one of the most important steps to avoiding these negative health effects. Along with getting plenty of me-time, we recommend the following to avoid the mental and physical health effects of family caregiving.
Maintain a Balanced Diet:
An integral component of what helps your body stay healthy is what you eat. Strive to maintain a healthy diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids as well as antioxidants to sustain balance in your body. In addition to eating healthy, make sure that you have a set eating schedule to ensure that you are eating despite the stress of the job.
Create an Exercise Schedule:
Working out is a healthy method to making sure that you are maintaining your mental and physical health. Exercise is an easy way of fighting off fatigue while also providing your brain with feel-good chemicals (dopamine) to give your body a boost of energy.
Get Plenty of Sleep:
Sleeping is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. From helping you maintain a healthy mental state to strengthening your immune system, a good night’s rest is integral to helping you live a healthy lifestyle.
If you want to prevent your body from receiving more stress, then avoid alcohol and drugs at all costs. These depressants will create more stress on your mental well-being.
Don’t Skip Your Routine Check-Ups:
In order to prevent your body from crashing, make sure that you are being proactive by going to your routine check-up. Doing this will not only help you identify any new changes to your health, but you can also ask your doctor any questions or concerns that you might have about your health or stress level.
Being a family caregiver is a difficult role. However, being proactive and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are important methods of ensuring that the life of a family caregiver does not bring you down. As a family caregiver how to do maintain mental and physical health?