Caregiving-related stress is killing you. Seriously, those who care for the chronically ill typically die four to eight years earlier than they would if they weren’t in a long-term caregiving role.
The Ohio State University and the National Institute of Health conducted a study on those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. The stress of caring daily for a chronically ill loved one is equivalent to the stress of caring for a child with long term disability. The degree of stress is so drastic it results in changes to the caregiver’s immune cells, which often shortens the lifespan of the caregiver.
Even when caregivers know they need help their sense of duty or fear of failure prevents them from asking for help or accepting it when it is offered.
People on the outside find it baffling that a caregiver turns down help, even though the person is obviously over-burdened by the responsibilities of caregiving, along with those of regular life. Many caregivers won’t even accept something as simple as an offer to stay with their loved one for two hours so they can get rest. Chastising a caregiver or telling them they are playing the martyr will not help the situation and may make it worse. What the caregiver rarely realizes is the person offering the assistance feels rejected, and it can be heartbreaking. Family members who want to be a part of the caregiving are made to feel small and lose out on the intimacy with that person who is their loved one also.
So, what does one do if they are the caregiver who needs help? What about the person who wants to help? Or the family member who also feels an obligation to care, but is hindered by the primary caregiver? Start from a place of understanding and compassion. Put yourself in the shoes of the primary caregiver; let’s be honest now: would you ask for help?
Now that we’ve got you thinking about it, I’ll offer some solutions my next post. But, if you need help in the meantime please call CarePartner (1-800-401-9357) or send us an email at email@example.com and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!