caregiver substance abuse

The role of the caregiver is a stressful one indeed. Whether it’s an ill parent, sibling, or grandparent, you have committed to the huge responsibility of caring for the physical and emotional needs of this special person. Now you feel like you’re slowly drowning. This is where caregiver substance abuse may start without even knowing.

Your own sheer exhaustion sets in as time goes on and pangs of guilt creep up for just wanting a good night’s rest. You know deep down that you’re doing a great job of caring for another person, but your own health is deteriorating as a result. To think that this could be the reality of your life for possibly years to come is overwhelming.

Why Caregiver Substance Abuse

For some, the stress of caregiving becomes serious enough to turn to alcohol and drug abuse as a way to cope. It can start slowly, with a glass of wine to relax after a stressful day of nursing a loved one. Before long, that glass of wine turns into two, three or even four glasses. Perhaps you’ve dipped into your family member’s prescription medications as a way to escape. What started as a one-off could become habit very quickly and your life will take a dangerous spiral.

This type of behaviour is not only damaging to your own physical health, but will impact the life of your loved one if you are impaired. Alcohol and drugs will affect the way your brain works, and thus impact your decision-making. You’re less likely to be able to properly respond to your loved one’s needs, such as doling out correct dosages of medication or taking him/her to appointments. Finances could suffer as well if you lose work due to chronic impairment.

Are you at risk for Caregiver Substance Abuse?

Here are some warning signs that the caregiver relationship is becoming toxic:

  • Depression
  • Resentful attitude towards the sick family member
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Lack of affections towards the sick person
  • Apathy

If you are having these types of feelings, talk to someone. You can’t look after someone properly if you’re not well. Before the situation gets out of control, tell your healthcare professional and family members. If you have already headed down the path of substance abuse, there is help out there. Other family members may be called upon to help out while you get the help you need.

Of course, there are situations where YOU are the only caregiver for your sick loved one. If that is the case, bring it to your health professional’s attention so you can become educated on what services are available in your community to assist you both.


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Lisa Marie is a cookbook author and, most importantly, the mother to an energetic five -year -old boy. She has been in the journalism industry for 13 years. Lisa's passion is health, food and lifestyle writing, and she loves whipping up new and creative recipes for her family.


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