Caregiver Anxiety: Everything You Need To Know

Every caregiver will experience the feeling of anxiety while caring for their loved ones. Learn more about caregiver anxiety, its signs, causes and ways to manage your anxiety as a caregiver.

by Calvyn Ee

Role of a Caregiver

Caregivers are an essential component to the recovery and wellbeing of a loved one. They are the eyes, ears and sometimes hands and voices of the care recipient that helps to relay important information to the medical team to make more informed treatment or recovery measures. Caregivers are a source of comfort, warmth and rationality, serving as a beacon of compassion through difficult moments.

Caregivers will take over a number of tasks that their loved ones may have done in the past. This may include getting the groceries, preparing meals, dishwashing and even tidying the home. In some cases, if the breadwinner is ill, then the caregiver may find employment to help pay the bills and purchase daily necessities. They will also keep track of doctor’s appointments, medications to take and provide transportation for various activities.

The act of caregiving can be a rewarding experience. Not only does it give you a newfound sense of purpose, but it also helps build a stronger bond with the one you are caring for. There will be many joyful memories to be made, but there will be difficulties. In the process of comforting and caring for their loved one, the caregiver will experience many of the same stresses that their loved ones do. There may be resentment if it seems that the caregiver was forced into these circumstances, even if they are out of one’s control.

The overall quality of life of yourself and the care recipient can be affected by their medical condition. The intensity of caregiving varies from person to person, especially for caregivers looking after senior citizens who may require additional care options. You may find yourself feeling overwhelmed by having to balance your life with the needs and stresses of caregiving. You may begin to exhibit signs of anxiety, a strong feeling of worry or fear. Anxiety is normal in that it keeps you alert for signs of trouble. However, too much anxiety can be detrimental and may even cripple you from making careful, informed decisions. This would be known as an anxiety disorder.

Signs of Caregiver Anxiety

Caregiver anxiety can manifest itself in physical, emotional and psychological ways. Among some signs of caregiver anxiety include:

  • Uncontrollable, persistent worrying
  • Exhaustion
  • Fatigue, nausea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Trembling, shaking
  • Panic attacks
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mood swings

The anxiety can interfere with your daily responsibilities and may even affect how you communicate with family and friends. If these symptoms persist, you have a chance of being at higher risk of other complications, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, depression or diabetes.

Causes of Caregiver Anxiety

Caregiver anxiety may stem from a number of factors:

  • Feeling overwhelmed by the caregiving and your own responsibilities (i.e. work)
  • Having to deal with uncomfortable/unknown situations
  • Feeling lost, directionless
  • Constant worry about your loved one’s condition
  • Uncertainty of the future
  • Social isolation
  • Insufficient support from close friends and family members
  • A pervading sense of failure, inability to cope

As the feelings of anxiety and stress grow, you will begin to grow more and more distant from those closest to you. You may also experience guilt for taking some time off for yourself. This only serves to increase your anxiety even further and will hamper your efforts to provide adequate care for your loved one. It may also affect how your family and friends view or treat you.

Managing Caregiver Anxiety

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by your caregiving responsibilities, it is time to get the help you need. Caregiving for someone also requires that you take good care of yourself.

Get Familial Help

Having the support and love from family members is a critical component of your wellbeing. Do not push them away when you are going through tough times. Talk to them, express how you really feel and share your worries with them. Discuss how you can help each other out through compromises: maybe you can share caregiving responsibilities with one another or have your loved one stay with another family member at certain times. If someone offers to help, accept it. If you receive constructive advice to help with caregiving, take it. It is not a sign of weakness that you need help sometimes. Knowing your limits and working through them with help can go a long way in putting you at ease and allow you to be at your best.

Take Care of Yourself

When you have people to help you and support you along your caregiving journey, it is alright to take some time off for yourself. Maybe you need to settle some bill payments, or you have an important appointment with a client at the office. Even if you want an hour or two to yourself to relax and unwind with meditation, or watch a movie, take that opportunity. Remember that it is not a luxury to care for yourself. You need to be at your best to provide the caregiving necessary for your loved one’s recovery.

You should also be mindful of staying active and healthy through exercise and a well-balanced diet. Set personal health goals if you think it will help to motivate you, such as getting enough sleep and drinking plenty of water.

Be Aware of Your Feelings

Take steps to be aware of your reactions to everyday situations. At points where you feel anxious, listen closely to your body. Take note of how you feel at that point in time, and be present with your thoughts. Panic and confusion quickly settle in when you let your thoughts meander to negative ones. It will take some practice before you get used to it. You can read up various materials on how to be aware of your thoughts or consult a professional counsellor on coping methods that can help. Consider keeping a journal to keep track of your emotions and how you are feeling.

Prioritize Important Tasks

There is a lot that you need to do as a caregiver. In some cases, you might find that you are doing a lot more than you are used to. You may even think you have to get everything done as quickly as possible. You must be realistic with your expectations as not everything can be controlled in your favour. Having a checklist or to-do list, on a daily, weekly or monthly schedule, will help you to narrow down tasks and keep you organized and can prevent you feeling overwhelmed. Put the essential tasks on the top of your list, and slowly work your way down. Establish a daily routine with set goals in mind, and with practice, you can manage your timetable much more efficiently.

Empower Your Caregiving

It always pays to be prepared. As a caregiver, you need specialised knowledge and skills that meet the particular needs of your loved one’s condition, and the Internet has an array of reliable sources to find. Knowing more about your loved one’s medical condition allows you to make informed decisions with doctors on how to proceed with treatment and recovery options. You will also be better equipped to give care when your loved one is discharged. Having a flexible care plan with the help of the medical team can help you through uncertainties and give you confidence in your caregiving abilities. Whatever you can do to help you improve your caregiving methods will go a long way in allowing your loved one to get the best care at home.

Getting Support

External support systems are an additional option you can seek out for help. Whether you are looking for professional advice or finding others going through a similar situation, there are a wide number of support options available to the public. You may be familiar with organisations such as Hospis Malaysia, the National Alzheimer’s Caregivers Network, and the National Cancer Society of Malaysia, all of which provide various resources and services to help your caregiving journey.

Not only are support channels beneficial for you but they also give your loved ones an avenue for socialising and being able to participate in many fun activities.

Professional Care

You can also look into various professional care services to help you with caregiving.

Daycare centres offer a few hours or a full day’s worth of activities to keep your loved one’s time occupied while you work or take care of other responsibilities. Nursing homes provide the same services, with the addition of providing nursing care for longer periods of time. You can even hire professional care providers to help keep an eye on your loved one at home, and give them adequate care at set timetables. Carefully consider the options depending on you and your loved one’s needs. See if you can tailor a custom plan to accommodate said needs.

Here at Homage, we provide you with holistic care options which include personal care, nursing services, or rehabilitation therapy, starting from one hour to round-the-clock care 24/7.

The important thing to remember is that caregiving should not, and never, be a journey you must go through alone. Help is always there when you need it. It is never selfish to ask for help when you really need it.

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References

American Liver Foundation. (n.d.). The Role of a Caregiver. Retrieved 6 October 2021 from https://liverfoundation.org/caregivers/the-role-of-a-caregiver/ 

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Bethesda Health Group. (2020). 5 Ways to Manage Caregiver Anxiety. Retrieved 6 October 2021 from https://bethesdahealth.org/blog/2020/12/02/5-ways-to-manage-caregiver-anxiety/ 

Brainline. (2009). Coping with Caregiver Depression & Anxiety. Retrieved 6 October 2021 from https://www.brainline.org/article/caring-caregiver 

Cleveland Clinic. (2019). Caregiver Burnout. Retrieved 6 October 2021 from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9225-caregiver-burnout 

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Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre. (2019). Managing Anxiety for Caregivers. Retrieved 6 October 2021 from https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/patient-education/managing-anxiety-caregivers 

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Zhao, J., Zeng, Z., Yu, J., Xu, J., Chen, P., Chen, Y., Li, J., & Ma, Y. (2021). Effect of main family caregiver’s anxiety and depression on mortality of patients with moderate-severe stroke. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-81596-8 

About the Writer
Calvyn Ee
Calvyn is an aspiring author, poet and storyteller. He spends his time reading, gaming and building stories with his action figure photography.
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