If you think PTSD only happens to those who have experienced life-threatening danger, think again. PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) can arise after any traumatic event or experience. So, can a caregiver get PTSD? It may surprise you to learn that providing care for a loved one is, in fact, among the main factors behind PTSD. Nevertheless, the condition frequently goes undetected, and thus untreated. This is because the individual receiving care is usually the primary focus of both healthcare providers and the family at large.
As a family caregiver, it’s essential to be aware of the red flags of caregiver PTSD – which are distinctly different from other forms of PTSD – and to seek help if you are experiencing them. These include:
- Anxiety: Heightened anxiety regarding your family member’s health and wellbeing may be especially noticeable at night, and can lead to night terrors.
- Pain: Both physical and emotional pain can be overwhelming and unrelenting. This can include stomach upset and headaches as well as feelings of hopelessness and anguish.
- Apathy: You may feel empty, numb, and emotionally detached from loved ones. This can occur in conjunction with compassion fatigue.
- Flashbacks: Reliving a distressing experience can result in the same degree of emotion as when the event occurred.
Why Are Caregivers at an Increased Risk for PTSD?
There are several factors that can come into play to create the perfect storm for caregiver PTSD, including:
- Hospitalizations and other emergency situations that arise
- 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 used to be, and much 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
- Difficult family dynamics and complex emotions like remorse, guilt, hopelessness, and helplessness
What Should You Do if You Believe You May Have Caregiver PTSD?
The first step should be to talk with your primary care physician to explain the symptoms you’re encountering. You will want to rule out any other medical conditions, particularly if you are experiencing any physical pain.
It’s equally important to locate a therapist who is specially trained in treating individuals with PTSD. There are effective 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 extremely important. Let friends and family members know that you’re struggling and that you could use more support. Caregiving should never be a one-person responsibility. Permitting 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?
Generations at Home’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 high quality care. Taking care of yourself is key to providing the best care for your family member. Contact us online or call us at 727-940-3414 for additional information.