If you think PTSD only happens to individuals who have experienced life-threatening danger, think again. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) can occur after any traumatic event or experience. It may surprise you to discover that caregivers develop PTSD and that providing care for a loved one is one of the main causes of PTSD. Nevertheless, the condition frequently 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 is important to know the red flags of caregiver PTSD – which are noticeably different from other types of PTSD – and to seek help if you are experiencing them. These include:
- Apathy: You may feel empty, numb, and emotionally detached from loved ones. This can take place in conjunction with compassion fatigue.
- Flashbacks: Reliving a distressing experience can bring about the same degree of emotion as when the event occurred.
- Pain: Both physical and emotional pain can be overwhelming and unrelenting. This may include stomach upset and headaches along with feelings of anguish and hopelessness.
- Anxiety: Heightened anxiety about your family member’s health and wellbeing may be particularly noticeable at night and can lead to night terrors.
Why Do Caregivers Develop PTSD?
There are many factors that come into play to produce the perfect storm for caregiver PTSD, 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
- Hospitalizations and other emergency situations that arise
- Challenging family dynamics and complex emotions such as guilt, remorse, and hopelessness
- 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
What Should You Do if You Think You Might Have Caregiver PTSD?
The initial step is to consult with your primary care physician to describe the symptoms you are encountering. You’ll want to rule out any other medical conditions, especially if you’re experiencing any physical pain.
It is additionally important to locate a therapist who is specially trained in treating people with PTSD. There are excellent treatment options, including EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) therapy, in addition to individual, family, or group counseling.
Taking regular breaks from your caregiving role is also extremely important. Let friends and family members know that you’re struggling and that you could use further 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?
CareWorks Health Services’ 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. Contact us online, or call us at (949) 859-4700 to learn more.