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The Alarming Link Between Caregiving and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

caregiver experiencing the effects of caregiving and post-traumatic stress disorder
If you provide care for a family member, you need to know about the link between caregiving and post-traumatic stress disorder.

If you think PTSD only happens to those who have experienced life-threatening danger, think again. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) can arise after any traumatic experience or event. It might surprise you to learn that caring for a family member is among the main factors behind PTSD. It’s crucial to understand the connection between caregiving and post-traumatic stress disorder because the condition often goes undetected, and thus untreated. This happens because the person receiving care is usually the primary focus of both healthcare providers and the family at large.

As a family caregiver, it is important to know the warning signs of caregiver PTSD – which are noticeably different from other forms of PTSD – and to seek help if you’re experiencing them. These include:

  • Apathy: You may feel empty, numb, and emotionally detached from loved ones. This may take place in conjunction with compassion fatigue.
  • Flashbacks: Reliving a distressing experience can lead to the same degree of emotion as when the event occurred.
  • Pain: Both emotional and physical pain can be overwhelming and unrelenting. This can include headaches and stomach upset along with feelings of hopelessness and anguish.
  • Anxiety: Heightened anxiety about your family member’s health and wellness can be particularly noticeable at night, and may lead to night terrors.

What’s Behind the Link Between Caregiving and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder?

There are many factors that can come into play to produce the perfect storm for caregiver PTSD, including:

  • Difficult family dynamics and complex emotions such as remorse, guilt, hopelessness, and helplessness
  • The overwhelming responsibilities involved with caregiving: from day-to-day care tasks to managing life-changing medical and financial decisions on a loved one’s behalf
  • Hospitalizations along with other emergency situations that arise
  • Grief over a range of losses: watching a loved one’s health decline, experiencing a relationship shift from simply being a family member to being in a caregiver role, not being able to live life as it was in the past, and more

What Should You Do if You Believe You Have Caregiver PTSD?

The initial step should be to consult with your primary care physician to describe the symptoms you’re experiencing. You’ll want to rule out any other health conditions, especially if you’re experiencing any physical pain.

It’s also important to locate a therapist who is specially trained in treating individuals with PTSD. There are effective treatment options, including EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) therapy, as well as individual, family, or group counseling.

Taking regular breaks from your caregiving role is also very important. Let family members and friends know that you’re struggling and that you could use additional support. Caregiving should not be a one-person responsibility. Permitting others to step up and help benefits the person you’re providing care for as well, providing them with additional opportunities for social connections.

How Can Home Care Help?

Superior Senior Home Care’s in-home respite care services in San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, Pismo Beach, and nearby areas allow you to take the time away you’ll need for self-care while knowing a loved one is receiving excellent care. Taking care of yourself is key to providing the best care for your family member. Contact us at 805-737-4357 to learn more.

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