The Hidden Stress of Losing Yourself when Caring for Others

Too often when a person is a caregiver all thought and energy goes to the patient, and little is left over for the one giving their time and energy taking care of them. For some, this can lead to feelings of stress and a sense of forgetting who they are as a person.

What is Caregiver Identity Theory?

Caring for a loved one can bring with it both good and negative impacts. Caregiver identity theory looks at the relationship between stressors and what can be the burden of caregiving. For some caregivers, there can be positive outcomes that come from providing care for a loved one. For others, it can be a stressful time and have negative outcomes.

This isn’t a black and white issue and loved ones providing care tend to fall somewhere between finding caregiving a completely negative experience and finding it a completely positive one. Where a person ends up on this spectrum depends on many factors such as behavioral issues of the patient, the health of the relationship between the caregiver and their loved one, and how the role of caregiving has changed the caregiver’s sense of self.

What are the Negative and Positive Impacts of Caregiving?

While there are always difficulties that come with caregiving, there are also positive outcomes as well. Caregivers find that when they bond with their loved one and their relationship improves, they experience personal growth, and feel a sense of pride knowing that they are able to be there for someone that needs them.

On the negative side, a recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine showed a direct correlation between being a caregiver that supplied substantial care and suffering from physical, emotional, and financial difficulties at a higher rate than non-caregivers. In addition, caregivers also had less time for their own leisure activities and encountered more difficulties at their jobs. The study also showed that only about a third of caregivers sought out respite care.

What is Respite Care?

Respite care services provide a temporary break for the caregiver. Caregiver stress can lead to feeling overwhelmed and isolated. With respite care, the caregiver can take some for themselves to rest, relax, or join in their favorite activities knowing that their loved one is in good hands.

You can schedule respite care for a few hours or a day or even set up a schedule to have someone come to your house once a week, so you can have a planned activity outside of your home. The choice is truly yours.

It is important to understand that no matter where you may be on the caregiver identity spectrum, having some time to yourself is important to help manage your stress. By giving yourself the gift of time, you can also be at your best to take care of your loved one without allowing the negative aspects of caregiving to take over your life. That’s a win-win for everyone.

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