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


  • Reply September 9, 2019


    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


      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


      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


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

  • 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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