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Caring for a Special Needs Child - How to Take Care of Yourself

by admin March 7 2013 15:38
180 Medical Kids Club
180 Medical is proud to supply many families with special needs children who must use catheters and ostomy supplies. Today, we want to show the parents of our customers how special we think they are for caring for their child every day.

More than 41 million Americans, or almost 15% of the population age 5 and older, have some type of disability; according to 2007 Census survey data. Some 6.2% of children ages 5 to 15, or 2.8 million kids, have disabilities, the Census Bureau found.

Most people may be unaware of what goes into caring for a special needs child. It's so much more than changing a diaper, cathing, feeding, and administering medication. The caregiver gives up much of their personal time. They may experience feelings of shame or loneliness, and worrying can be a constant, especially if their child is in pain. 

What is Caregiver Stress Syndrome?

Caregiver Stress Syndrome comprises both physical, emotional, and psychological aspects. The signs and symptoms of Caregiver Stress Syndrome include:

  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Memory problems
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Decreased immune system function (leaving the caregiver more susceptible to common infections like colds or the flu)

Caregiver Stress Syndrome runs along a continuum, ranging from mild symptoms, to severe symptoms. When a caregiver reaches the severe end of the spectrum, burnout may occur, and more serious health issues may begin to emerge. 

How to Avoid Caregiver Stress Syndrome

The best way to get around Caregiver Stress Syndrome is to make sure you are taking care of yourself, and if possible, giving yourself a break. You are not a bad parent for needing time to yourself. One of my favorite analogies is something every flight attendant tells their passengers before take-off. In case of an emergency, if the oxygen masks drop, you must first secure your own mask before assisting children and other passengers. I believe this is true for caregivers. You cannot continuously give to another without refilling your own vital energy.

Self-Care Tips for Caregivers

  • Focus on right now, rather than tomorrow or yesterday. When you fixate on the past and obsess over what might happen, you could miss something wonderful today.
  • Find a support system. It is so important to find others that can relate to what we are going through. There are many support groups available online, but many prefer finding support through in-person connections via church, friends, and family.
  • Therapy is a great place to privately talk about your feelings.
  • Remember you are only human. Feelings of frustration, anger, depression, fear, and stress are normal, but you don't have to live with these constantly.
  • Be kind to yourself and take some time to relax. Take a hot bath or a walk outside, read a book, exercise, or sit down with a favorite TV show.

180 Medical strives to make the lives of our patients a little better every day. Do you have some tips of your own for other parents of special needs children?

Additional Resources:
Children with Special Needs
Parents of Special Needs Kids

About the Author:

Trish has worked for 180 Medical for almost three years, as the Nebraska Office Coordinator. She lives in Nebraska, with her husband and daughters.