If you think PTSD only happens to those individuals 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 caregivers suffer from PTSD – and in fact, caregiving is among the main causes of PTSD. Yet the condition often goes undetected, and thus untreated. This is because the individual receiving care is normally the primary focus of both healthcare providers and the family at large.
As a family caregiver, it’s essential to be aware of 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:
Anxiety: Heightened anxiety regarding your family member’s health and wellbeing may be particularly noticeable at night, and can result in night terrors.
Flashbacks: Reliving a distressing experience can bring about the same level of emotion as when the event occurred.
Pain: Both physical and emotional pain can be overwhelming and unrelenting. This can include headaches and stomach upset as well as feelings of hopelessness and anguish.
Apathy: You may feel numb, empty, and emotionally detached from loved ones. This can take place in conjunction with compassion fatigue.
Why Do Caregivers Suffer From PTSD?
There are several factors that can come into play to create the perfect storm for caregiver PTSD, including:
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
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
Hospitalizations along with other emergency situations that arise
Challenging family dynamics and complex emotions like remorse, guilt, and hopelessness
What Should You Do if You Believe You May Have Caregiver PTSD?
The initial step is to consult with your primary care physician to describe signs and symptoms you are experiencing. You will want to rule out any other medical conditions, especially if you are experiencing any physical pain.
It is equally important to locate a therapist who is specifically trained in treating individuals diagnosed with PTSD. There are excellent treatment options, including EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) therapy, as well as individual, family, or group counseling.
Taking regular breaks from your caregiving role is also very important. Let family members and friends know that you are struggling and that you could use further support. Caregiving should not be a one-person responsibility. Permitting others to step up and help benefits the person you are caring for as well, providing them with additional opportunities for social connections.
How Can Home Care Help?
The Care Company’s Toronto in-home respite care services 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. Email or call us at (416) 422-2273 to find out more.