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Caregiver Stress: Do you Know the Signs?

By HERWriter
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Wellness related image Photo: Getty Images

Families and friends provide about 80 percent of all full-time care for elderly loved ones. In pure numbers, 44 million American families are providing live-in caregiver or home care to a loved one.

As any mother can tell you, looking after someone else full-time can be an extremely draining emotionally and physically. With the amount of people aged 65 and over expected to quadruple in the next 30 years, it is reasonable to assume that more and more live-in caregivers will experience caregiver stress.

When you’re looking after someone else’s needs on top of the needs of other family members and work, particularly when an elderly person’s needs change or increase as their mobility or abilities decrease, it’s easy to see how caregiver burnout happens.

The Facts about Caregiver Depression

It is estimated that about 20 percent of family caregivers suffer from caregiver depression. It is likely that this number is much higher.

In fact, nearly 60 percent of clients of California’s Caregiver Resource Centers show clinical signs of depression, and 41 percent of caregivers for spouses with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia experienced mild to severe depression up to three years after their spouse died. (Family Caregiver Alliance)

It is important to note, however, that caregiving itself does not cause caregiver depression and not everyone who is a caregiver will experience it. Caregiver burnout and caregiver stress happens when caregivers neglect their own need of support and respite. Anxiety, isolation, exhaustion and the guilt associated with having these feelings at all can take their toll.

Many in today’s society still view depression and asking for help as a sign of weakness. It is hard to pinpoint all the emotions and their physical impact on the rest of the body because each caregiver is different and each caregiving situation is different.

Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout

Beware of the following symptoms or a combination of symptoms, particularly if they persist for longer than two weeks in a row:

• Change in eating habits and resultant weight gain or weight loss

Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I try not to let my family know just how burned out I get between caring for my own family as well as my grandmother who recently became homebound. I started caring for her last summer and I had just had my first child 3 months before so the stress started to really build over the holidays and I'm really starting to feel it now and I'm burning out. My partner, trying to be helpful, bought my grandmother a specialized senior cell phone from SVC prepaid and is actually trying to teach her to use it - she hopes it will give her a little more independence as well as allowing me to have a little freedom well. I think it's a great idea...I don't think it will really take away the stress.

January 30, 2012 - 5:45pm
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

You should let your family know how burned out you are. You're emotionally and physically unavailable to your toddler if you're too tired from caring for your grandmother. Is there not a job you can delegate to another family member? Or a couple of friends?

I know you probably feel as if it's your duty because she's your grandmother, but you need to be fair to yourself and your family as well, and discuss this situation with other family members. If they don't want to get involved either by helping themselves with something then perhaps they'll help pay for respite care or something. You can't carry the entire burden by yourself.

January 30, 2012 - 6:27pm
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks for shedding light on the important issue of caregiver burnout. This article is a great reminder that sometimes a hug, a shoulder to cry on, or someone to listen can help too. We will certainly share this with members of Lotsa communities.

January 26, 2012 - 7:59am
HERWriter (reply to Anonymous)

You're welcome and you're right. Sometimes the simplest things can make a whole lot of difference. It's so easy for caregivers to be so caught up and dedicated to looking after someone else they neglect themselves. The caregiver needs caregiving too!

January 26, 2012 - 9:21am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.