Being a caregiver is a rewarding yet demanding role. It requires patience, energy, empathy, and it is easy to become overwhelmed and forget about yourself; especially during this unprecedented pandemic where usual resources for respite care may not be as readily available.
With COVID-19 causing significant restrictions in daily activities and social interactions, many have lost the essential caregiving support services they desperately need. Sheltering in place leaves caregivers with less options to get outside or take breaks from the person they are caring for. Naturally, this can lead to an increase in caregiver stress. Remember, these are natural feelings and you are not wrong for feeling them.
Since your stress levels may be higher, it is important to make sure you are checking for standard signs of burnout such as:
- Feeling emotionally or physically exhausted
- Struggling to cope
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Feeling blue, irritable, listless, worried or sad
- Changes in appetite, weight, or both
- Changes in sleep
- Getting sick more often
- Having headaches or body aches often
- Feeling alone, isolated, or deserted by others
All of these are valid feelings, and during the current times, may be more prevalent.
We encourage you to reach out and speak to someone about these feelings. To cope with caregiver stress, AARP suggests don’t play the shame game, create areas of separation within the home, share moments of mutual enjoyment and meaning, and maintain your lifelines.
There are many online videos with meditation or mindfulness exercises like this one that can help relieve stress. For those with smartphones, there are many apps to help with stress like these. Or to reach out you can call or text mental health professionals at Psychological Health Center of Excellence Psychological Resource Center, call or chat with peers at Veterans 4 Warriors, or use some of the self-help strategies at Make the Connection. The Department of Veterans Affairs website www.caregiver.va.gov offers caregiver information and support resources.
If you are experiencing feelings or wanting to hurt yourself or the person whom you are caring for, we encourage you to reach out to the veteran crisis line immediately for support at 1-800-273-8255, and press "1", texting 838255, or chatting via their website.
WATCH: PVA Associate Director of Medical Services Katelyn Johnson shares her insights on how you can avoid caregiver burnout