What Can I Do About Caregiver Stress?
Easing the Stress of Caregiving
From the Spring 2004 issue of Hopes & Dreams, newsletter of the Illinois Chapter, Huntington's
Disease Society of America.
"Caregiver Stress" is extremely common. The seemingly endless round-the-clock
physical and emotional demands of caregiving can end up taking a big toll on
body and your mind.
For millions of Americans who have assumed the role of caregiver to an older,
disabled loved one, the round-the-clock physical and emotional demands can cause
feelings of stress to soar. In fact, stress is the number one cause of caregiver
There are, however, some basic steps that can be taken to keep stress to a minimum
and help ensure the caregiver's well-being is maintained at a maximum.
- Set manageable expectations and limits for yourself. Be realistic about
can and cannot do—as well as what you want to do and don't want to do.
- Although it's difficult, try not to set yourself up for disappointment
the way your relationship used to be with your loved one and the present-day
circumstances. Stages in life as well as stages in relationships can be meaningful
in their own way.
- Ask for and accept help! Oftentimes, people want to be useful, but may not
always know what to do--let other family members and friends know what they
can do to share in the responsibility of caregiving. Don't forget to consider
people who live at a distance, as well as neighbors and people from faith-based
groups or clubs, to pitch in to help.
- Maintain or establish social interaction with friends and other family
Isolation can further increase feelings of stress. Having the chance to have
laugh, and focus on something other than your at-home caregiving
responsibilities can help you keep stress at bay and maintain emotional balance.
- Remember that there's room for feelings such as sadness, grief and/or loneliness
to be present along with other more joyful emotions. When you do feel down,
avoid critical self-perceptions, and, instead, try to articulate the understanding
you need from those around you. Consider seeking the help of a therapist to
you sort out your feelings and deal with your concerns and troubling issues.
- If the elderly person you are caring for has dementia, avoid overly stimulating
environments since that can add to their anxiety and end up increasing your
- Don't abandon healthful eating and drinking habits. Avoid giving in to
driven urges for overeating or for overindulging in alcohol.
- Exercise regularly. Even if it means finding someone else to take over your
caregiver duties, getting regularly-scheduled exercise—for example,
swimming, yoga, biking, or aerobics—can be of tremendous benefit to
physical and emotional well-being.
- Seek emotional and moral support from other caregivers—there is great
in knowing you are not alone. Many communities have support groups for family
caregivers of elderly persons organized through local hospitals, churches
- Use community resources such as meal or shopping services, home-care aides,
adult day services, and/or volunteer help from faith-based organizations or
- Try to find quiet time for yourself to do something you especially enjoy,
reading, walking, listening to music, gardening and/or visiting with a friend.
- Find ways to ensure you get enough rest. Sleep deprivation can sap your
distort your thinking and cause your mind and your body to become stressed
beyond healthy limits.
- If you experience any signs of depression (for example, extreme sadness,
trouble concentrating, withdrawal, or hopelessness), don't delay in getting
professional help for yourself. Depression is a serious, but very treatable
condition. If left untreated, depression does not "just go away,"
symptoms progressively worsen and can even become debilitating.
Remember to be good to yourself. As a family caregiver, you're doing a very
rewarding--job and deserve understanding, support and quality time for yourself
ensure you meet your own needs. Many caregivers have found that therapy offers
strengthening help in dealing with the many challenges of caregiving. Therapy
provide a time and place that is devoted exclusively to your feelings, needs,
concerns—and can result in a healthy perspective that allows you to devote
efforts to your loved one, while also making sure you take the very best care
Created and maintained by Renette Davis. Send comments to Renette by clicking here.
Created: June 20, 2004
Last updated: Nov.15, 2010