Saturday, November 21, 2009

Understanding Signs of Caregiving Stress

Caregiver stress is a daily fact of life for many caregivers. Caregiving often takes a great deal of time, effort, and work. Many caregivers struggle to balance caregiving with other responsibilities including full-time jobs and caring for children. Constant stress can lead to "burnout" and health problems for the caregiver.

Here are just some of the signs of stress that caregivers and their friends and families should watch out for:
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Anxiety/Irritability
  • Exhaustion
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Depression
  • Thoughts of harm to self or others
  • Weight loss
If you are a caregiver who is experiencing any of the above, you should talk to your doctor as soon as possible. If you know a caregiver who has shown any of the above symptoms of stress and you feel comfortable talking with them about the possibility that they are overstressed, you may want to suggest that they visit their doctor. You might also want to volunteer to help out so they can find the time to visit their doctor.

You can screen yourself for depression using the free NMHA-sponsored online screening tool located at This tool doesn't make a diagnosis, but it can help you determine whether you should consider seeing your doctor.

A fact sheet on caregiving and depression is available from the Family Caregiver Alliance at

Oftentimes, a little help around the house or a break from caregiving is all that's needed to keep stress at manageable levels. Caregivers often need help caring for an elderly or disabled care receiver. Sometimes other family members or friends and neighbors are able to help, but many caregivers do most or all of the caregiving for a loved one alone.

Research has shown that caregivers often are at increased risk for depression and illness. This is especially true if they do not receive enough support from family, friends, and the community.

Talk to your doctor about caregiver stress he may have a list of useful referral sources for help in your local community. 

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