Caregiver Syndrome, a relatively new term, is being used more often by some medical professionals to refer to the emotional and physical toll experienced by those caring for an elderly relative, neighbor or friend. This syndrome is composed of stress, fatigue, and self-neglect, all of which pose significant health risks to those caregivers who are able to identify with this state of being.

As an elderly person’s needs increase and their abilities decrease, the hands-on involvement of other people in their lives become more commonplace. This escalation of assistance, often provided by a spouse or adult daughter, brings with it many challenges that allow the caregiver to slip into self neglect.

As the needs of our loved one becomes our primary focus, our own needs and wants are pushed aside because we will get to these at some other time, or so we think. Unfortunately as we evolve into excellent caregivers, we slowly but surely forget about ourselves and what it takes for us to remain healthy and happy. So in the end, everyone loses out, including the person we are focused on serving.

Without proper self care we can begin to experience increased social isolation, emotional distress, and become susceptible to our own health issues. Often times we are being asked to make constant adjustments to our schedules, not to mention the nature of the relationship that we now have with the individual being cared for. This new, unfamiliar role and its potential negative impact in our own lives makes all of us very much open to becoming victims of caregiver syndrome.

So how do we protect ourselves in order to stay healthy and continue being the wonderful caregivers that we desire to be for our loved one? The answer is really quite simple, yet due to our feelings of guilt, may be difficult for many to embrace. As the demands placed upon us increase, it is imperative that our self care also increases. Below are several ways which this can occur:

  • Support Groups – Speak to others who are also caring for a loved one.
  • Counseling – Share your feelings with a trained professional
  • Care Giving Buddy – Ask someone to help you with your responsibilities, be it family or a friend.
  • In-Home Services – Hire someone trained and trustworthy to provide respite care on a regular basis so that you can continue with your important personal social interactions.
  • Relax – Read, Cook, Pray, Sleep, Shop, whatever it is that helps you to relax – DO IT!!

The bottom line is that in order to continue giving, you need to also be getting. Caring for a loved one during their treasured latter period of life can be filled with immense rewards, including a sense of giving back along with a renewed purpose in life. But self care cannot and must not be over looked, otherwise caregiver syndrome with become a much more commonly used and recognized term.

Peter Violette, Comfort Keepers