Caregivers, Alcohol, and Substance Abuse

Caregiving is not an easy job. It’s one of the most demanding jobs you will ever encounter. It requires all of your physical, emotional, and mental strength to perform it. These traits are the same for both family caregivers and those who get paid to do it. Furthermore, it will take a toll on the well-being of the person in the caregiver role. It is not uncommon for people who work as caregivers to develop health problems due to their calling. In many cases, caregivers start having issues with alcohol and substance abuse.

During their careers, more than 15% of professional caregivers will deal with various forms of substance abuse.

The things aren’t brighter for family caregivers. Considering there is 44 million of them, substance abuse is one of the main issues all caregivers encounter. At the moment, there are at least 10% of family caregivers who are considered substance abusers.

Caregivers, Alcohol & Substance Abuse

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What Leads a Caregiver to Develop Negative Behaviors?

Smoking, abusing alcohol, and substance abuse are the most frequent negative behaviors in caregivers, and they can be enhanced by various factors. The most common ones are the following:

  • Fear and anxiety that appear when a caregiver is doubting that they are doing a proper job
  • Stress from too many responsibilities coming their way
  • Stress, negative emotions, and sometimes depression that appear when you witness the decline of a loved one
  • Pain, which is sometimes a result of an injury suffered while doing caregiving duties
  • Isolation from the outer world when you have a patient who demands non-stop attention
  • Bitterness towards a sibling who isn’t helping you
  • Anger directed at those who put you in a difficult situation
  • An unhealthy surrounding with no one to help you
Caregivers, Alcohol & Substance Abuse

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Caregivers who are in the most danger of starting to abuse substances or alcohol are those who care for patients that have Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia.

Recognizing the Signs of Alcohol and Substance Abuse in Caregivers

Caring for someone is not the same on the first day as the 100th. With time, duties pile up and problems start. Because of this, caregivers are often not aware that they are under stress or that have become anxious. Sometimes they spend months and even years isolated from others without knowing it.

In most cases, it starts with a glass of wine to lower the stress and relax. With the days, months, and years passing by, one drink turns into two, and two become four or five. Sometimes people get hooked on medications for insomnia or some other prescription drug. In more severe cases, caregivers start using medications which are intended for their patients.

Below, we are going to talk about some of the most visible signs that your caregiver might be misusing substances or alcohol. They are:

  • Lethargy followed by sleepiness that is ever-present
  • Constant presence of agitation towards everything
  • Quick to anger and slow to calm down
  • Weight gain or weight loss which wasn’t intentional
  • Financial issues with an inability to justify expenses
  • Use of alcohol or drugs as a means of passing a day

Recovery Programs for Caregivers

For family caregivers, giving them a break from their duties can help in dealing with addiction. But in most cases, it will take more than that. For a caregiver, it is essential to ask for help. Most homecare agencies have programs to help if a situation arises where a caregiver is using alcohol or other substances. The first step is the hardest and most obvious: ask for help.

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