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What is Caregiver Stress?

Caregiver stress is the emotional strain of care-giving. Recent studies show that care-giving takes a toll on physical and emotional health. Caregivers are more likely to suffer from depression than their peers. Limited research suggests that caregivers are more likely to have health problems like diabetes and heart disease than non-caregivers.

Caring for another person takes a lot of time, effort and work. Plus, most caregivers juggle care-giving with full-time jobs and parenting. In the process, caregivers often put their own needs aside. Caregivers often report that it is difficult to look after their own health in terms of exercise, nutrition and doctor’s visits. As a result, caregivers often end up feeling angry, anxious, isolated and sad.

Caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other kinds of dementia are especially vulnerable to burnout. Research shows that most dementia caregivers suffer from depression and stress. Also, studies show that the more hours spent on care-giving, the greater the risk of anxiety and depression. Women caregivers are particularly prone to feeling stress and being overwhelmed. Studies show that female caregivers have more emotional and physical health problems, employment related problems, and financial strain than male caregivers.

It is important to note that caring for another person can also create positive emotional change. Aside from feeling stress, many caregivers say their role has had many positive effects on their lives. For example, caregivers report that their role makes them feel useful and gives them a sense of purpose. They say care-giving has made them feel they are making a difference in somebody’s life. It can be helpful to discuss how care-giving has provided benefits to both the caregiver and the care recipient. This focus on the positive aspects of the experience can help give perspective and needed hope when the stress increases.

Stress response narrows your ability to think clearly and function effectively. It can disable you physically and emotionally. The goal of stress management is to bring your nervous system back into balance, giving you a sense of calmness and control in your life. There is no one way a person can relieve stress, and the way we cope with extra demands varies from person to person. Every individual has a unique response to stress, so experiment with a variety of approaches to manage and reduce stress to learn what works best for you.

Ways to Change Your Lifestyle Habits to Manage Stress

How to Change Your Thinking and Emotional Responses to Handle Stress Better

How to Meet the Challenges of Stressful Situations

Common Techniques for Stress Relief

More Tips to Reduce Stress

Professional Help for Stress Management

There’s a fine line between feeling stressed out while still being able to function effectively, and the debilitating phenomenon we think of as burnout or breakdown. The difference is between handling your stress on your own, and being unable to figure out what to do because the pressures of life have become so overwhelming. It is time to seek professional advice if you:

Taken from: The North Dakota Caregiver Project NDSU Extension Service, North Dakota State University Home Instead Senior Care A Practical Guide to Caring for Caregivers, American Academy of Family Physicians