When mention is made of Caregiver Stress Syndrome, which is quite real, most people will speak of it in relation to people to are taking care of aging parents. There are a huge number of baby boomers who are now taking care of their elderly parents, while perhaps still having kids of their own at home to care for, too. However, caregiver stress can also strike parents with special needs children, and roughly 14% of parents do have a special needs child. Caregiver stress is just as much of a potential problem for these parents, especially for the single parent with a special needs child.
Caregiver Stress Syndrome comprises both physical, emotional, and psychological aspects. The signs and symptoms of Caregiver Stress Syndrome include constant fatigue, irritability, sleep problems, anxiety and depression, problems with memory, hypertension, headaches, and a decreased immune system, leaving the caregiver more susceptible to infections, like the common cold, or flu. Caregiver Stress Syndrome runs along a continuum, ranging from mild symptoms, to severe symptoms. When a caregiver reaches the severe end of the spectrum, burnout may occur, and more serious health issues may begin to emerge.
Caring for a child with special needs is often a 24/7 job. Even when the child reaches school age, there may remain appointments that happen several times a week, and then the care required at home. Try to combine this with work, or maintaining a home, caring for other kids, and often, as an afterthought, taking care of yourself, and it is not hard to see why parents with special needs kids are a perfect set up for Caregiver Stress Syndrome. If you are a single parent of a special needs child, take your stress level and double it. You simply cannot hand your child over to the other parent and take off for a few hours of R&R. It just does not happen. It may be hard to work a traditional job if you have a special needs child, so financial worries add up quickly, too.
I am the single parent of a special needs child and many days life is minute to minute, right now. I do not expect it to be like this forever, because at present we are in the midst of some pretty heavy work to help him release, and heal, from some pretty huge anger he has been packing around due to some extremely unfortunate life circumstances that he had to endure as a small child. I know that, with help, I will get him through this time, but it is hard on him, and hard on me. I am blessed in that we have an excellent support system, so as alone as I may feel at times, help is just a phone call away, and progress is being made. However, I am darn tired, and each day is a challenge. I know that I am not the only parent in the world going through such a stressful time, and there are things that we can all do to take care of ourselves.
To begin with, if you are trying to go it alone, stop now and get help, or learn to ask for help. I have never been the best at asking for help, but I have learned and it makes all of the difference, even if it just means 30 minutes off. I also enlisted the help of an excellent psychologist, who is working with my son and I, and even if seeing her several times a week is a challenge right now, it is time well spent.
If you are a parent of a special needs child, you need to take extra care to eat well, and to exercise regularly to replenish yourself. I know for me, some days are so hectic that a decent meal doesn’t even sound good, but a fitful of cookies sure does. I make a huge pot of good, homemade, soup at the start of each week, and I bake a mean multi-grain bread, so that I know that I have two, healthy, meals a day all set to go. I also make it a priority to drink 8 big glasses of water each day.
It is hard to find time for much when caring for a special needs child, but a 30 minute walk a day can work wonders to alleviate anxiety, and ward off depression. It will also help you sleep better at night. On the topic, I go to bed earlier now. Yes, I am tired, but before, I would have stayed up just to have a little time to myself. Now, I know that the sleep is more important at present. I do make it a habit to carve out time for myself on school days to just be.
Parents of special needs kids can greatly benefit from even 20 minutes a day of meditation, or prayer. I try to pray for at least 30 minutes, to an hour, a day. It relaxes me greatly and calms my mind. I my mood needs improving, it helps that, too. It sure does a lot more for me than time in front of the TV would. And I play with my son. Once we both get the giggles so bad that we cannot stop laughing, I know that I have done us both the biggest favor possible. No matter how hard your day may be, make to laugh and you will feel a whole lot better.
Responding to Caregiver Stress Syndrome