It’s not only people who have been through life-threatening situations who develop PTSD. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) can arise after any traumatic experience or event. It may surprise you to learn that experiencing PTSD as a caregiver is normal after caring for a family member. It’s common for the condition to persist undetected and untreated, however. This is because the individual receiving care is usually the primary focus of both healthcare providers and the family at large.
If you care for a loved one, it is essential to be aware of the red flags of experiencing PTSD as a caregiver – which are distinctly different from other forms of PTSD – and to seek help if you’re experiencing them. These include:
- Pain: Both physical and emotional pain can be unrelenting and overwhelming. This can include headaches and stomach upset in addition to feelings of anguish and hopelessness.
- Anxiety: Heightened anxiety regarding your family member’s health and wellness can be especially noticeable at night, and may lead to night terrors.
- Flashbacks: Reliving a traumatic experience can lead to the same level of emotion as when the event occurred.
- Apathy: You may feel empty, numb, and emotionally detached from loved ones. This can take place in conjunction with compassion fatigue.
How Does Caregiving Increase the Risk for PTSD?
There are many factors that can come into play to produce the perfect storm for experiencing PTSD as a caregiver, including:
- The overwhelming responsibilities involved with caregiving: from day-to-day care tasks to managing life-changing medical and financial decisions on a loved one’s behalf
- Grief over a variety of losses: watching a loved one’s health decline, experiencing a relationship shift from simply being a family member to being in a caregiver role, not being able to live life as it was in the past, and much more
- Hospitalizations and other emergency situations that arise
- Difficult family dynamics and complex emotions like guilt, remorse, helplessness, and hopelessness
What Should You Do if you Believe You Might Be Experiencing PTSD as a Caregiver?
The initial step should be to talk with your primary care physician to explain the signs and symptoms you are experiencing. Make sure there aren’t any other underlying medical conditions, especially if you’ve been experiencing any physical pain.
You’ll also need to get connected with a therapist who has a specialty in PTSD. There are excellent treatment options, including EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) therapy, as well as individual, family, or group counseling.
Routine breaks from your caregiving role are essential. Let friends and family members know that you’re struggling and that you could use extra support. Caregiving should never be a one-person responsibility. Allowing others to step in and help benefits the person you are caring for as well, providing them with additional opportunities for social connections.
How Does Home Care Help?
Golden Harmony’s in-home respite care services allow you to take the time away you’ll need for self-care while knowing a loved one is receiving excellent care. Taking care of yourself is key to providing the best care for your family member. Email or call us at 919-426-7522 for more information about our services in Raleigh, Cary, Wake Forest, and the surrounding areas.