Post-traumatic stress disorder can be caused by going through any type of emotional upheaval as a result of a dangerous or traumatic event. Some common causes are war, abuse and being the victim of a crime. Some senior citizens suffer from PTSD as a result of a fall or injury that caused them to be hospitalized. But what about those who care for them? Are there caregivers with PTSD?
As a caregiver, you may recognize the emotions usually associated with PTSD: horror, helplessness, extreme fear and stress. You may lack sufficient social and emotional support, and may find yourself dealing with other stressful transitions at the same time as you take on the role of caregiver.
Treatment for PTSD
If you think you might be suffering from PTSD, the first step is to consult with your physician. There is treatment for PTSD, and you can heal from it. In addition to professional treatment, you can also make lifestyle changes which will improve your quality of life and help you get to a healthier place:
- Start exercising – Exercise has been proven to reduce stress and a regular regimen will keep both your mind and your body healthy. This can be as simple as going for a walk a few times a week, or you can join a gym and make regular times to work out on the machines or attend exercise classes.
- Get support – Family and friends can support you by steering you away from situations which trigger PTSD and by lightening your load so you can focus on yourself every once in a while. Don’t be shy about asking for help; they’ve probably been waiting for you to tell them what you need.
- Be realistic – Caregivers are especially prone to trying to do too many things in one day. Break tasks into smaller tasks, and be realistic about what you can accomplish. It helps to write a list of everything which needs to be done, and divide the tasks by days of the week. Anything which doesn’t get done on the day it was assigned, is rolled over to the next day. If too many things are rolled over, it’s time to shorten the list.
- Let go of the guilt – If you feel guilty about having any fun, it’s time to change your mindset. Taking care of you means you are better able to take care of your loved one. Find ways to engage in activities which make you happy, whether it’s getting together with friends, watching a movie or spending a few hours at the mall. Notice how energized you feel when you recharge your batteries and remember that your loved one benefits from this as well.
Even if you don’t have an official diagnosis of PTSD, you’re surely doing one of the hardest jobs around (possibly in addition to your other jobs and responsibilities). Making time to care for yourself is crucial to your mental and physical health and to your ability to continue to be a loving and supportive caregiver.