Quad Cities, IL/IA

Working with the community... for a healthier community.

Taking Care of Others, Taking Care of Ourselves


By Virginia A. Barber, DC, Palmer Chiropractic Clinics Faculty Clinician and Genesis Hospice Volunteer

is National Caregivers Month, a time to recognize and celebrate the
sacrifices and rewards of caring for those who are unable to care for

One of the most rewarding and challenging roles a person
can take on is that of caregiver. To step into such a role is to take
responsibility for the physical, social, medical, emotional, and/or
financial needs of a loved one, often in addition to continuing to
perform one’s regular job and life duties. And, while caregiving can
definitely be full of emotional and spiritual rewards for both the
caregiver and the person being cared for, it can often lead to
“caregiver stress” and ultimately “caregiver burnout.” Finding an
effective way to care for oneself while caring for another is the key to
maintaining a healthy self.

A caregiver is defined as anyone who
provides assistance on an ongoing basis to another person in need. Most
commonly, the caregiver is an adult child providing care for an elderly
parent, but the same relationship may exist with other relatives,
spouses, friends, neighbors, or disabled adult children. Those of us who
provide such care without being paid are known as “informal caregivers”
or “family caregivers.” We “family caregivers” provide approximately 80
percent of the long-term care in the United States. Sixty-one percent
of us are women; most of us are middle-aged. Fifty-nine percent of us
have jobs in addition to our caregiving duties. Clearly, we family
caregivers have a workload and a stress load that can quickly get out of
control, especially if we begin neglecting our own needs as we struggle
to meet those of others.

Caregiver stress develops as we succumb to
the emotional and physical demands of caregiving. We’re tired all the
time, but rarely feel as if we’re caught up with our responsibilities.
As a result, we feel guilty about not doing a better job caring for our
loved one. We are frustrated and angry about what seem like endless or
unreasonable demands, only to then feel terrible if we have “snapped” at
our loved one. We’re exhausted when we go to bed at night but either
can’t sleep, or wake up just as tired. We feel our world is narrowing at
the same time that our responsibilities seem to broaden. In short,
we’re in trouble, and we’re on the way to shutting down, or “caregiver

Research shows that caregivers are more likely to
experience higher rates of certain health problems related to poorly
managed caregiver stress. For example, caregivers are more likely to
have higher levels of stress hormones, obesity, depression, and anxiety,
as well as more likely to have a long-term medical problem such as
heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or arthritis. When ill with an
infectious disease, caregivers will be sick for more days than their
non-caregiver counterparts. Part of the reason for this increased rate
of health problems is that caregivers are less likely to take good care
of themselves because they are so busy taking good care of others!

aware of the signs of caregiver stress can alert the caregiver that
it’s time to start taking better care of themselves. Some of the most
common signs are feeling overwhelmed; eating too much or too little;
feeling constantly sad, worried, or angry; losing interest in favorite
activities; and somatic or body symptoms such as headaches, neck pain,
and other bodily aches and pains. By addressing rather than attempting
to ignore these warning signals, the caregiver can start to restore
their own sense of well-being, which in turn gives them more patience
and compassion toward their loved one.

Chiropractic care is a
well-known and popular treatment choice for many of the musculoskeletal
manifestations of physical stress. A chiropractic clinic with years of
experience can help by providing gentle, safe, and effective treatment
for headaches, neck pain, and back pain (some of the most common
physical signs of caregiver stress). They can also provide useful
techniques in stress reduction and lifestyle changes to help people
better manage life’s inevitable stressors. And, finally, some are
caregivers, too, so they are well-positioned to understand and empathize
with the demands that caring for a loved one places upon them.

visit our website at www.palmer.edu/clinics/qc to find out more about
how to allow us to help you take better care of yourself so that you can
take better care of your loved one!