News Break: Therapy for Caregivers

Post-traumatic stress. We associate it with soldiers returning from war and victims of violent crimes or disasters. Caregivers? Not so much.

But actually, caregiving can be traumatic, can’t it? You may be watching a loved one deteriorate, all the while taking on tasks you were never trained to do and perhaps don’t even have the stomach for.

So maybe it should come as no surprise that many caregivers experience symptoms “similar to those shown by people with post-traumatic stress,” according to the blog The New Old Age. And some go through therapy for it. The blog reports:

Sara Qualls, a professor of psychology at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, said it’s natural for caregivers to be disgusted by some of what they have to do — toileting a loved one, for instance — and to be profoundly conflicted when they try to reconcile this feeling with a feeling of devotion. In some circumstances, traumatic-like responses can result. …

“I think that a piece of the trauma reaction that is so devastating is the intense privacy of it,” Dr. Qualls said.

The therapists quoted in the post, who talk about various situations (not just involving unsavory duties), teach the caregivers that the emotions they’re feeling guilty for are normal. Coping mechanisms for situations like the one described above, Dr. Qualls says, include relaxation and problem-solving techniques, and bringing in someone to help with the problematic tasks.

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