Examining Emotional Disorders Among Caregivers

Mar 22, 2016

Examining Emotional Disorders Among Caregivers

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Caring for a loved one can be a really rewarding experience, but all too often caregivers let their own physical and emotional health suffer at the expense of someone else’s. Many caregivers report putting their caree first, and commonly forget to take care of themselves. While a caregiver is responsible for someone else’s health and well-being, it’s important that they remember to eat right, exercise, and have some designated me-time, because without these things, their own health can suffer.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 40 to 70 percent of at-home caregivers are suffering from some sort of emotional disorder. 

Common Emotional Disorders Among Caregivers 

  • Depression - Change in eating habits, extreme sadness, loss of interest in activities, exhaustion, thoughts of harming oneself and inability to sleep are common symptoms of depression. Depression is a scary thing, but thankfully, there are many preventative strategies and treatments for those who are suffering. If a caregiver believes they are showing signs of depression, it is important that they seek help from a physician. A physician may recommend a medication to keep these symptoms at bay or they may simply suggest that the caregiver speaks to a psychologist.
  • Anxiety Disorder - Anxiety disorder is often lumped in with depression, but it can be a disorder all its own. Everyone gets nervous from time to time, but if someone finds that this nervousness is taking over his or her lives, it’s time to see a physician. Common symptoms of anxiety disorder are:
    • Panic Attacks
    • Irrational Fears
    • Excessive/Constant Worry
    • Trouble Falling Asleep
  • Emotional Stress- While people regularly say things like “I’m so stressed out”, and that may be, emotional stress is an actual disorder. Despite the fact that stress is a mental and emotional disorder, most of its symptoms are physical. Some of these symptoms include muscle tension, back pain, hair loss, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems. If a caregiver is experiencing these issues, he or she should consult a physician to talk about their options.
  • Chronic Anger and Frustration - Caregiving, like many jobs and responsibilities, can get frustrating. Getting frustrated is normal. Although if a caregiver is frustrated constantly, and to the point of getting angry with the individual they are caring for, something may be wrong.  Regular anger and frustration may be the result of an underlying issue, such as depression, so it’s best to consult a physician if a caregiver finds themselves getting frustrated easily.
  • Substance Abuse - Substance abuse and depression often go hand and hand, and due to the large amount of caregivers that suffer from depression, substance abuse is a lot more common among caregivers than many people believe. Substance abuse can range in severity, but any form of abuse, whether alcohol, prescription drugs, or another substance, should be taken seriously. Family members commonly notice substance abuse first, so if a caregiver is showing symptoms, consult a professional and discuss how to bring it up to the individual.

Finally, caregivers are likely to suffer physically as well. Many caregivers are so focused on the health of their loved ones that they forget to take care of their own bodies and they may end up with a weakened immune system. If a caregiver finds themselves getting ill often or constantly has symptoms of a cold, they should consult a physician to make sure their body is healthy.

Many people pass these disorders off as being a part of caregiver burnout and while this may be true, all of these disorders should be taken seriously. If a caregiver finds himself or herself experiencing any of these symptoms, he or she should seek help from a trusted medical professional. A physician, psychologist or psychiatrist can offer a diagnosis, treatment and preventative care for all the disorders listed above. At times, caregivers need to be aken care of as well.

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Frequently Asked Questions

My mother has Alzheimer's disease, and lately she's been wandering out of the house. What can I do to stop her wandering?

Wandering can bring forth loads of anxiety in any caregiver, but thankfully, there are many things you can do to put a stop to the wandering, or at least decrease it. The first thing you should do is secure your house. Replace locks and doorknobs with ones that are more difficult to open. Put up an alarm system so that if the door were to open, you will be alerted immediately.

At times it’s difficult to prevent this completely, especially with some very persistent individuals. But, there are things you can do to keep the situation from becoming hazardous even if an individual wanders. For example, always make sure the individual has some sort of identification on them. You could also put up a fence as long as it’s a reasonable option.

If you find that the issue of wandering is out of your hands and may result in your loved one getting hurt, it may be time to consider other options. This may include hiring outside help in the form of an in-home health aid or moving your senior to a senior living community that specializes in memory care.

See All Answers »

I take care of my father at home, he was diagnosed with Dementia, but it seems to be worsening, what should I do?

Seek the help of a physician. If Alzheimer’s, a type of dementia, is caught in the early stages, there is a lot of preventative care and treatments that physicians may offer your father to maintain, and even increase, quality of life. Make notes of any of the common Alzheimer's signs or symptoms your father might show.

If you find that taking care of your father is becoming too burdensome on you, consider having other family members help or hire outside help. There are in-home health aides, as well as adult day care centers that have staff specially trained for seniors with Dementia or Alzheimer's.

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