Caregivers frequently experience stress especially if taking care of someone occurs for a long period of time. A caregiver often neglects their own needs over the person they are taking care of which often leads to a level of stress that is unbearable. To help understand what type of impact being a caregiver can have on someone’s overall life and what someone can do to reduce caregiver stress, I have interviewed therapist Wendi Svoboda LCSW.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I received my Master’s Degree in Social Work from Columbia University in 2000. I am Level 1 and Level 2 trained in the Trauma Resiliency Model from the Trauma Resource Institute. Currently, I am studying for International Certification in EMDR (a therapy used with people who have experienced trauma). Since 2005, I have been employed as a program therapist at the Sherman Oaks Hospital, CA, Partial Hospitalization Program. This program is with adults and seniors with mental illnesses. Since 2009, I have had a psychotherapy private practice, working with adults and couples. I have extensive experience treating adults, couples, seniors, and caregivers in the field of mental health.”
What type of impact can being a caregiver have on someone’s overall life?
“Being a caregiver can have a negative, as well as a positive, impact on someone’s life. Often, the needs of the person are being cared for takes higher priority than the needs of the caregiver. The caregiver’s needs inevitably get pushed down the line, with the intention to be met later; but the reality is that they often do not get met at all. Chronic physical and emotional stress is a manifestation of the stressors of being a caregiver. Headaches, body aches, and digestive problems are a few examples of how the stress of caregiving can appear in the body. Caregivers give so much of themselves emotionally, that they often do not have emotional reserves left for themselves or others in their life. Being a caregiver can have a positive impact on someone’s life. You are able to provide a need to someone who desperately needs the help. Though you will be challenged in ways that are new; the opportunity to learn is significant.”
How can someone reduce caregiver stress?
“There are numerous ways that one can reduce caregiver stress. Be willing to accept help from friends and family. When the offer of “If there is anything I can do, let me know” presents itself; take advantage of it. Let go of the idea that “I can do it all myself.” Even if someone folds the laundry or runs a few errands can really make a difference in decreasing feelings of overwhelm. No one is giving out awards to the caregiver who does it all on his/her own. Spending time reading, exercising, meditating, and maintaining a healthy diet is other simple, but not to be overlooked, ways to reduce stress.”
What type of professional help is available for a caregiver?
“There are numerous types of professional help available to caregivers. Caregiver support groups are often found at hospitals and social service agencies. At a support group, you realize you are not alone with your feelings. You can avail yourself of tips from others who have faced similar challenges, and you can spend time being around others who really “get” what you are going through. The Internet has a lot of resources and information available for caregivers. One website I like to use is www.caregiver.com. Respite care can be extremely beneficial. Allowing someone else to shoulder the responsibility of caregiving, even for a short period of time, can have a profound impact on your physical and emotional energy level. This time allows you to see to your needs, and replenish your physical and emotional energy. Also, many caregivers find individual psychotherapy helpful. Going to a trained therapist to focus on your needs is an opportunity to spend time on you. This allows you to explore your feelings in a supportive and non-judgmental environment. Caring for someone else often triggers unmet needs from the past, which can foster feelings of resentment and anger toward the person being cared for. If not addressed, this can cause challenges for you, the person you are caring for, and your support system.”
What last advice would you like to leave a caregiver of aging parents?
“You have to take care of yourself first in order to be an effective caregiver to someone else. With the right resources and supports in place, being a caregiver can be a rewarding and life-changing experience. As a caregiver, you are on 24-7. In a traditional job, you have a start and finish time, and your responsibility to the work stops when you leave the workplace. Caregiving is a job where the work never stops. Caregiving for an elderly person presents unique challenges. When you care for a child, the expectation is the child is moving toward independence, with your involvement gradually becoming less. But when you care for an elderly person, the movement is toward dependence, and there are a series of cumulative losses. All this being considered, the role of caregiving can be a wonderful gift to give another person. Caregivers often report that feelings of empathy and understanding of someone with a caregiving need greatly increase after serving in that role.”
Thank you Wendi for doing the interview on caregiver stress. For more information on Wendi Svoboda or her work you can check out her website on wsvobodalcsw.com.
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