My entire life, I have been labeled a “worrier”. It was always just part of my identity. After finding my 46-year-old husband of 18 months on our kitchen floor at 3 am, you can only imagine how exacerbated my worrying became!
For those of us who have experienced the trauma of watching a friend or family member go through an injury or disease that now requires them to have a caregiver, it changes you forever.
We also know that caregiver PTSD after the death of a loved one is something that should be addressed by the healthcare system, but often goes undiagnosed.
Never again will I hear a “thump” in my home and think it’s just one of the dogs. I will permanently be scarred by the image of my husband lying on our kitchen floor. If I have someone helping with Mark and I see their number on the caller ID on my phone, I will likely always assume the worst.
While I thought this was just my personality and it was only me who had these experiences, I have since learned about caregiver PTSD.
Yes. It is real. Yes. It is concerning. Yes. It can be treated.
For those of us who are currently in this role of caregiver and find ourselves feeling edgy all the time, there is good reason! Caregiver burnout is real. Caregiver PTSD is common.
Those who are suddenly thrust into the caregiver role for a family member or friend often experience symptoms of PTSD:
Feelings of shame
Inability to sleep
Always on guard
Consistent panic attacks
Aches and pains
Loss of appetite
Increased Risk Of Death
Increased blood pressure
Increased cardiac issues
Foregoing one’s own health needs
Most of us who are caregivers have heard the advice about self-care to combat the stress of caregiving. I can tell you from personal experience that self-care will help, but may not remove all the issues that you are experiencing as a caregiver.
No amount of exercise, tea, or hot bubble baths will ever heal my heart after the last 7 years of being a caregiver and watching my husband go from being an athletic, Ph.D. student and full-time employee to a dependent, confused, and physically weak man.
What can we do as caregivers to overcome these symptoms?
First, acknowledge the feelings you are having. It’s OK if you don’t have it all together. It’s OK to admit that you have days where you feel like you will jump out of your skin. It’s much easier to fix an issue if you know that it is there.
Being a caregiver often causes trauma and due to the weight of the responsibility and the disjointed healthcare system, the symptoms of caregiver PTSD often go undiagnosed and ultimately untreated.
This leaves the person who you are caring for in a vulnerable position as well. If you are the glue that is holding everything together, you usually don’t have the luxury of losing your edge.
7 years ago when I started my own caregiver journey, it was 2015. So things looked quite different than they do now. The access to care for caregiver PTSD has improved greatly and we are in a much better position to receive appropriate care than ever before.
One blessing that has come from Covid 19 and the pandemic, is access to many different types of providers via telemedicine. You can receive quality psychiatric care from the comfort of your own home quite quickly and efficiently. This includes prescription medications, that they can ship directly to your home if needed. For many cities and states, psychiatric care providers can take more than 6 months to see in person, due to the shortage of providers. This closes that gap beautifully.
One reputable provider is:
As mentioned above regarding psychiatric care, you can also find counseling, from licensed professionals that are available via video chat, telephone visits or even texting if you are not comfortable being on camera or talking to someone on the phone.
For these services, a reputable company can be found here:
While this may be a little more tricky, did you know that many primary care services are now available via telehealth? One example, if you need to be seen by your primary physician for a refill of your blood pressure medications every 6 months, many offices will now allow a video visit if you are able to obtain your vital signs at home.
So I do this for many of my home patients, but if you have a nurse in the family or in the neighborhood or even a parish nurse at your church, ask them if they will help you obtain updated vital signs. Your doctor or primary provider will often appreciate this efficient way as well.
If you don’t have a provider who is agreeable to this or you are looking for a new provider that is willing to do telemedicine, you can always use a medical concierge service. These are located all over the country and allow you to usually pay a low monthly fee to have access to a provider via telehealth. These providers can prescribe your medications, order appropriate testing from your local lab, keeping the busy caregiver healthy while respecting the fact that it may be difficult or in some cases impossible to get into an office because of their caregiver responsibilities.
To find a medical concierge service, you can type “Medical Concierge Services Near Me” into your Google search. These companies as well as individual providers would love to assist you with health maintenance and disease prevention.
I will honestly tell you I am HORRIBLE when it comes to asking for help. As a GenX caregiver, I know that my personality has always been to figure things out myself.
Often people tell me “You make everything look like it’s so easy with Mark.” or “You don’t have any stress as a caregiver.” This is because I don’t complain to most people.
What they don’t see is the years of chronic headaches, body aches, and panic attacks. I have days where I open my eyes in the morning and think “I can’t do this one more day.”
After waking in the night with severe chest pains and head pressure, I realized I was likely going to put myself in a position of needing my own caregiver if I have a stroke!
Don’t become a statistic. The stress and trauma of being thrust into the role of a caregiver are life-changing. If something happens to you, what will become of the person you are caring for?
Find help and support.
As always, I am a real person. I read all my emails. You are always welcome to reach out to me at: