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 event or experience. It might surprise you to learn that providing care for a family member is among the main factors that cause PTSD. However, the condition often goes undetected, and thus untreated. This inattention to caregiver PTSD happens because the individual receiving care is normally the primary focus of both healthcare providers and the family at large.
As a family caregiver, it is important to know the warning flags of caregiver PTSD – which are noticeably different from other types of PTSD – and to seek help if you’re experiencing them. These include:
- Flashbacks: Reliving a traumatic experience can lead to the same level of emotion as when the event occurred.
- Anxiety: Heightened anxiety about your family member’s health and wellbeing can be especially noticeable at night, and may lead to night terrors.
- Pain: Both emotional and physical pain can be unrelenting and overwhelming. This may include stomach upset and headaches as well as feelings of anguish and hopelessness.
- Apathy: You may feel empty, numb, and emotionally detached from loved ones. This may occur in conjunction with compassion fatigue.
Why Are Caregivers at an Increased Risk for PTSD?
There are several factors that can come into play to create the perfect storm for caregiver PTSD, including:
- The overwhelming responsibilities involved in caregiving: from day-to-day care tasks to managing life-changing medical and financial decisions on a loved one’s behalf
- Grief over a range of losses: watching a loved one’s health diminish, experiencing a relationship shift from simply being a family member to being in a caregiver role, being unable to live life as it was in the past, and more
- Hospitalizations along with other emergency situations that arise
- Difficult family dynamics and complex emotions like guilt, remorse, helplessness, and hopelessness
What Should You Do if You Think You Might Have Caregiver PTSD?
The initial step is to talk with your primary care physician to describe signs and symptoms you are encountering. You’ll want to rule out any other health conditions, especially if you’re experiencing any physical pain.
It’s equally important to find a therapist who is specifically trained in treating people with PTSD. There are excellent treatment options, including EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) therapy, and individual, family, or group counseling.
Taking regular breaks from your caregiving role is also vitally important. Let family members and friends know that you are struggling and that you could use more support. Caregiving should not be a one-person responsibility. Allowing others to step up and help benefits the person you are providing care for as well, providing them with additional opportunities for social connections.
How Does Home Care Help?
Home Sweet Home In-Home Care’s respite care services in Kalamazoo, Paw Paw, St. Joseph, and the surrounding areas allow you to take the time away you need for self-care while knowing a loved one is receiving high quality care. Taking care of yourself is key to providing the best care for your family member. Contact us at (866) 229-2505 to find out more information.