When someone dear to you falls terminally ill, this can put your emotions in overdrive. You might feel a series of emotions like denial, depression, and anticipatory grief. Their impending death may come as a surprise and impact your life more than you might think. This is especially true if you decide to take on the role of their main caregiver.
You want to give them the best care even if it meant you need to make sacrifices. You might be depriving yourself of time, care, and happiness. It is easy to feel guilty for not being there 24/7 and for needing to take care of your own needs.
Even with home care options, you still choose to be there for your loved one. You make sure you spend your precious time taking care of their needs. It can be hard to let go and accept their impending death, which is why you exhaust every effort to extend their life.
Caregiving Stress and Its Impact on Mental Health
According to a study, caregiving has benefits and risks. You might feel good knowing you are doing your part in caring for your loved one. At the same time, you feel stressed and depressed for not being able to do anything more.
Since your focus now is solely on your terminally ill loved one, caregiver stress makes you vulnerable to both physical and mental changes. You either become blind or chose to ignore the signs that scream you are now experiencing caregiver stress. The signs include the following.
- Feeling sad, tired, overwhelmed, or constantly anxious
- Frequent body pains and headaches
- Losing or gaining weight
- You get easily angry, irritated, or frustrated
- Losing interest in your hobbies and other things you usually enjoy doing
- Isolating yourself from other loved ones
- Binge-drinking or abusing prescription drugs or illegal substances
All these signs show you are now stressed out as a caregiver. Prolonged stress can make trigger anxiety, depression, and even apathy. Even the most resilient people can experience caregiver stress, making it important that you don’t take self-care for granted.
Dealing With Caregiver Stress
There are things you can do to fight your stress. The following list some of the best ways you can cope with caregiver stress.
Never Think You Should Handle This Alone
The first thing you need to realize is that you don’t have to do everything on your own. There is no reason to try to be responsible for everything regarding your loved one’s care when you have many options available. For one, they surely have other people who deeply care for them and are willing to help you out with their care.
Second, there are professionals waiting for you to step aside and allow them to handle all the tricky tasks. Third, there are people and organizations willing to help terminally ill patients live their remaining days in a more comfortable way.
Seek social support as needed. If you find it hard to talk to someone close to you about your stress as a caregiver, you can always talk to the pros or find support from support groups. There are many people willing to take their time to listen to your thoughts, your worries, and your frustrations without judging you.
Set Your Own Personal Health Goals
Caregiving does not necessarily mean devoting your life to be there for your loved one 24/7 until they pass away. They will surely ask you to leave everything behind only to fall back a few steps from where you left off. Chances are, they want you happy and healthy despite their current condition.
So, make sure you also take great care of yourself. Set personal health goals that will ensure you have enough energy to take care of your loved one and handle other important tasks throughout the day. Remember that there is no point depriving yourself of enough sleep, healthy meals, and exercise as these won’t help you take better care of your loved one.
Focus on the Things You Can Do to Help
Not every primary caregiver knows and understands the principle behind caring for a terminally ill patient. There is no point in feeling guilty just because you are unable to do everything that a hospice nurse can do for your loved one. Focus on your strengths and on the things you are capable of doing.
For instance, you never fail to brighten your loved one’s day by telling them stories of how your day went. Instead of sulking and feeling blue whenever you are near them, choose to be happy instead of depressed. Share happy stories, reminisce wonderful memories, and do something nice for them to boost their mood and lift their spirits.
Caregiving to a terminally ill loved one can be tricky, frustrating, and sad. But the last thing your loved one needs is you getting sick because you constantly worry about them. Remember that you are one of their sources of strength. Choose to be physically and mentally healthy and you will find it easier to cope and care for them during these challenging times.