February 21st, 2018

Caregiving Corner: Are you a boiled frog?

By Medicine Hat News on February 9, 2018.

I’ve heard it said if you put a frog in boiling water, it knows to jump out to avoid being boiled. If you put a frog in cold water, and slowly raise the temperature, it adapts to the rising temperature and stays there until it’s boiled.

The caregiving path is similar and equally dangerous. It starts out as an adjustment that seems to be manageable. As time goes on, the responsibilities increase, the worry increases and stress silently builds. It’s easy to get fooled by thinking the stress has decreased during times of calm and relief. It’s not so.

During these times of calm and relief the stress just levels out. It doesn’t decrease. We have adapted to the “rising temperature” of caregiving. Whether it’s the next crisis, or the cumulative effect of years of caregiving, the stress continues to climb. Somewhere on this path the caregiving stress turns to burnout.

Research shows that that nearly half of family caregivers have symptoms of anxiety and depression, which are closely related to caregiving stress that leads to caregiver burnout.

How close are you to being “boiled?”

Take a moment and think about the past few days and answer these questions. Are you feeling so exhausted you aren’t sure you can get through the day? Do you secretly wish you didn’t have to do all the “caregiving stuff” and then feel guilty and worthless because you have that thought? Do you wake up very early in the morning or sleep too much? Are you feeling all aloneand that no one cares about you? Have you had trouble making decisions? Are you having difficulty recalling details of conversations, something you’ve read, or following through on a regular task? When was the last time you sat down and relaxed while eating a hot meal? Do you get easily frustrated or angry? Are you catching every flu or cold that’s going around?

If any of these things sound familiar, go see your doctor or counsellor. You may be experiencing anxiety, depression and close to caregiver burnout. There are many options for reversing the impact of caregiving stress before you have a medical crisis of your own. You deserve to feel better, live happier, and be the caregiver you want to be.

Lorna Scott is a caregiver strategist, a member of the Caregiver Coalition of Southeast Alberta and The Caregiver’s Lighthouse; and is author of the best selling book “Walking the Journey Together É Alone.” She may be contacted at Lorna@TheCaregiversLighthouse.com or 403-548-8437

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