Stop Caregiver Stress from Killing You

family caregiver stress

Why do we keep talking about stress?

If you’re caring for an older adult, you’ve probably heard a lot about reducing, managing, or being aware of stress. In fact, you’re probably sick of hearing about it. But there’s a good reason  why everyone, including us, thinks caregiver stress is such a big deal.

 

Serious consequences to not reducing stress

We don’t like being negative and we are absolutely not criticizing you for being stressed out. But we need to be brutally honest. We push so hard on caregivers like you to reduce stress and take breaks because chronic severe stress can actually cause death.

 

Stress causes serious health conditions and increased risk of death

Caregivers are at risk because they put caregiving duties first and tend to ignore symptoms of stress-related problems. It’s wonderful to care so deeply for your senior, but putting your own health last leads to severe chronic stress, serious health conditions, and poor lifestyle choices.

Serious chronic health issues

  • 45% of caregivers report having serious chronic conditions including heart attack, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis. That’s almost double the rate for non-caregivers.
  • 60% of caregivers reported fair or poor health status, one or more chronic conditions, or a disability. Again, almost double the rate for non-caregivers.
  • Women who spend 9+ hours/week caring for a spouse have double the heart disease risk.

Accelerated aging and higher death rate

  • Chronic stress accelerates aging by actually shortening cell life. This leads to weaker muscles, skin wrinkles, and even organ failure. Severe stress can take as many as 10 years off a person’s life.
  • In a study published in Journal of the American Medical Association, 33% of stressed caregivers with a severe chronic disease died within 4 years.
  • Older adults (aged 66 – 96) caring for a spouse have a 63% higher risk of death than non-caregivers of the same age.

 

Prevent stress from harming your health

Of course you don’t want to have terrible health problems and you’re certainly not stressed because you want to be. So, what can you do to improve the situation?

Dramatic changes aren’t necessary. The answer isn’t to abandon your older adult and run away to Hawaii (though that does sound nice…). What will make a positive difference is changing how you talk to yourself, paying attention to your own needs and getting help when you need it.

Work on making your own health a higher priority, take short breaks, do little things to care for yourself, and use simple tips and tricks to manage stress. These small changes could literally save your life.

 

You might also like:
Local Respite Care Services Give Caregivers a Break
Caregivers, How to Know If You’re Stressed Out
Reduce Caregiver Stress Using Your Smartphone Alarm

 

By DailyCaring Editorial Staff
Sources: Family Caregiver Alliance, Caregiver Action Network, NAC: Caregiving Costs, Evercare and NAC: Caregivers in Decline
Image: asapSCIENCE

20 Comments

  • Reply July 20, 2021

    Burned Out

    I have been the sole caregiver to my mom for 5 years now, with no support whatsoever. Its as if we are on an island all by ourselves. two adult siblings who are bystanders…spectators at best. And worst and most insulting is that ‘I’ resigned my $72k a year job to care for her full time as the dementia worsened and her hearing diminished. I have two degrees and a future that was filled with goals desires that seem soo far away now…almost as if it will never happen. I find myself wondering when she’ll pass so that I can RUN back to my life…shallow and selfish I know but its how Ive been feeling lately…and…who is going to take care of me when I’m this age?? And what is it that the youngest of the siblings have to take on this responsibility. Anyhow thanks for letting me express with those experiencing the same challenges.

  • Reply June 22, 2021

    LosingMyMindPDQ

    I have only suspicions of my mother having dementia at this point, no diagnosis. My family has completely stopped responding to me and never ever try to see how I’m doing. Instead they try and pamper my mother who continues to put lies out about myself and my husband and is evicting us out of her home. I guess it’s because she’s only 61, and they either don’t see it yet or don’t want to face it. She tried to poison my husband which was caught on video, and even asked someone if it would be funny to poison him without knowing another individual overheard her, and then told us what he heard. We’ve tried so hard and have done so much work around her house to help her out and she never sleeps and wanders around at night taking things of ours into her room and locking them up telling others we stole that stuff from my brother in prison and my deceased father. I can’t take it anymore, it feels like she sabotages us on purpose because some times she seems perfectly fine. She visited me and my daughter at the hospital last night because my daughter had surgery, then when she left she went and started a huge thing with my husband at the house which resulted in her walking around the property yelling and screaming at the top of her lungs about worthless he is. I feel like I can no longer remember any good memories from my childhood, and I’m terrified I’ll lose what good memories I have left just from dealing with all of this. She’s even made a comment about her having dementia which nah now denies saying at all.

  • Reply May 5, 2020

    Barbara Breen

    Thank you for all your support. It means so much to me. I’m learning not to beat myself up. I love my mom so much. And you’ve taught me not the always question my daily decisions.

    • Reply May 5, 2020

      DailyCaring

      We’re so glad this is helpful! You definitely deserve to give yourself credit and appreciation for all the wonderful things you’re doing. Those everyday decisions can be tough to make and you’re making them after careful consideration. There often isn’t an ideal choice, so you’re doing the very best that you can in a challenging situation ❤️

  • Reply February 28, 2020

    Vanita Boyd

    I am honored that I have the opportunity to support my mother. I do get overwhelmed and stressed out sometimes! I have found that using resources such as Uber and Lyft to take her to her appointments is very helpful! I also use services such as Insta Cart to deliver her groceries. When I am at work and she would like some fast food I will have Uber Eats deliver food for her. She also has her medications delivered to her. I have also found a beauty shop that is close to her home and I have worked out a deal with the beauty shop and she just has to pay $20.00 to have her hair done. I also take her to church on Sunday’s which helps to lift her spirits!!

    • Reply February 28, 2020

      DailyCaring

      That’s wonderful! You’ve found so many helpful solutions that save you time and lighten your load as well as make life brighter for your mom.

  • Reply September 9, 2019

    Kate

    Try a Pace program helps keep you at home instead of nursing homes. Free Respite stays. It’s Medicaid so can’t own home or they take it over. Can always find someone to help sit with so you get a break

  • Reply February 8, 2019

    Susan Graf-Cote

    My family is evil. They fight doing the right thing for their own gain. My mother had a massive stroke. Every time I see her it feels she wants to pull my soul out of my body and put hers in it. She made terrible choices leaving her broke. Regardless, the nursing home who swore they’d never approve she leave to go back to a home the bank is taking as well as home to a person incapable of handling her own life let alone a mom in diapers. I am so angry, and sad it’s making me sick!

    • Reply February 8, 2019

      DailyCaring

      I’m so sorry about this situation. It’s understandable that you’d be sad and angry about what’s happening 😢💔

  • Reply October 31, 2016

    Marathon John D Gaffney

    I feel the reason why being a family caregiver can kill U is bcause theres no family support & the family caregiver has to do it all by him/herself

    • Reply November 1, 2016

      DailyCaring

      Caregiving is a tough and overwhelming job. That’s why having a support system is so essential, so you won’t be doing it alone. When family isn’t available, use any other way you can to build a support network. Use any county resources available, go to caregiver support groups, talk with nonprofit organizations, take advantage of community volunteer programs that can help, ask friends or neighbors to do favors like send over a meal or help with an errand… The point is to think about everything you have to do and see what items you can get off your plate by getting help from others.

    • Reply November 10, 2019

      Anonymous

      All by herself!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…No support – no calls – absolutely nothing from family. It is as if you never even existed in their lives.

    • Reply May 14, 2020

      Archie

      I 100% agree. I am so alone all the time with no help from my brother that lives less than 1 mile from my mother and I. His wife is useless, she doesn’t work outside the home and their kids are 16 & 12 so no excuse not to offer help at least once in a while. I am empty, mentally, emotionally and physically — I have nothing left to give!! It’s useless and actually a insulting telling people they need to relieve their stress and then offer nothing helpful to achieve that end. Please help in a concrete way or STFU!!

  • Reply December 9, 2014

    Mike Good

    I was really surprised when I learned that many people caring for someone with Alzheimer’s die before their loved one – shocking. Because they actually provide better care for their LO than themselves, their health is jeopardized. I believe the first step is becoming educated about whatever situation your loved one is experiencing. This helps us to navigate more efficiently and effectively – ultimately reducing our stress.

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