Abuse Is Preventable: Know the Warning Signs of Caregiver Stress Syndrome Before it’s Too Late

I was recently asked to speak about the important topic of caregiver stress and it’s correlation to physical abuse of care receivers.  A startling study in the late 1990’s indicated that 23% of non-spouse caregivers engaged in some form of physical abuse of their loved one.  Another more recent study reported out of 342 callers to a helpline 12 % admitted they had physically abused the person in their care at least one time.  This is especially concerning as we know that most cases of abuse go unreported.  Not surprisingly, caregivers who have high levels of care to provide on a daily basis are at a higher risk for depression and extreme stress now known as Caregiver Stress Syndrome.  Polls of caregivers have shown 20% of caregivers fear the anger, frustration and depression they experience may lead to abuse and that number rises to 57% in homes where the person with Alzheimer’s disease has been physically abusive to their caregiver.  The good news is there are many physical, emotional and behavioral warning signs to serve as a guide to caregivers that it may be time to seek professional counseling and support to help improve coping mechanisms and enhance safety for both them and their loved one.  Emotional signs include: Anger, inability to concentrate, excessive worry, extreme sadness and frequent mood swings. Physical signs may include: Headaches, stooped posture, neck pain, chronic back pain, chronic fatigue, weight gain or loss and sleep issues.  Behavior signs might include: Overreacting, acting on impulse, use of alcohol or drugs to cope, withdrawal from relationships and activities, overspending and over or under eating. If you are concerned you may have Caregiver Stress Syndrome, have experienced violence in your home while providing care or are fearful of your own ability to manage your anger and stress the Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center has a compassionate and confidential dementia specific counseling program designed to help you enhance your coping skills and increase your sense of emotional well-being.  REACH OUT to the Alzheimer’s Care Resource Center today for support.  Our door is always open for you!