Women are natural caregivers. So when a family member becomes ill or debilitated, we frequently find ourselves in the role of that person's primary caregiver. However, when this responsibility becomes so stressful and overwhelming we cannot perform our job, we have what is called caregiver role strain. Caregiver role strain is an official diagnosis listed with the North American Nursing Diagnosis Association. Feeling of anger and physical health problems are just some of the signs you may be suffering from caregiver role strain. Here are some other ones to watch out for:
You are angry/violent towards the person you are caring for
Are you beginning to resent your role as caregiver? Do you take it out on the person you are caring for by yelling at him or becoming physically aggressive towards him?. These are not only signs of caregiver role strain, but a very dangerous situation for both you and the person you are caring for and must be dealt with immediately before serious harm is inflicted.
You are preoccupied with being caregiver
From the minute you wake up to the time you go to bed, you cannot stop thinking about or behaving like a caregiver. It has become so consuming that even when you talk to your friends and other family members, the entire conversation revolves around being a caregiver. And when people do not engage in your preoccupation, you believe no one cares about your situation.
You ignore your personal needs
The preoccupation with being a caregiver eventually leads you to ignoring your basic needs. You are eating less, sleeping less, ignoring personal hygiene, and neglecting your own physical problems. Taking care of yourself has taken a back seat to caring for your loved one.
Your emotional problems have become physical problems
Stress takes its toll on us in emotional and physical ways. According to the North American Nursing Diagnosis Association, problems such as upset stomach, fatigue, rash, and high blood pressure are all physical signs that may indicate caregiver role strain.
I think I may have caregiver role strain
If you think you may have caregiver role strain, you are not alone. Resources such as Share The Care can assist in finding the help you need to care for your loved one and yourself. Speak to your health care professional about additional resources for caregiver assistance. And never forget that you cannot care for someone else if you cannot care for yourself. Eat three to five meals a day, get plenty of rest, take breaks when the stress becomes too overwhelming, and build a support team around you.
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health website
Doenges, Marilynn E., Moorehouse, Mary Frances, and Murr, Alice C (2008.) Nurse's Pocket Guide-Diagnoses, Prioritized Interventions and Rationales (11th ed.). Philadelphia: FA Davis Company