What is Caregiver Strain?

Caregiver strain describes the emotional and physical strain of caregiving. Anyone who provides care to a loved one can experience this type of strain. There are some known risk factors: female sex, lower educational level, living with your loved one, a high number of hours caring for your loved one, depression, financial difficulties, and lack of choice in being a caregiver.

What Is Caregiver Strain

As a caregiver you are at risk for caregiver strain and depression. It is more common than you may think. If you are experiencing too much stress, you could be putting your health at risk.

These are the symptoms of caregiver strain/stress:

  • Denial about your loved ones condition
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Withdrawal from friends and activities
  • Anxiety about the future
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Sleeplessness
  • Lack of concentration
  • Health problems

These are some symptoms of depression that you should watch out for:

  • Becoming easily agitated or frustrated
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Thoughts of death, dying, or suicide
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and pain

If you think you may have caregiver strain or any symptoms of depression, you should speak to your doctor.

Your loved one’s doctor may also be able assist you in finding resources to support your caregiving.

Tips for reducing caregiver strain

  1. Ask for help. Ask a friend or another family member to help you in caring for your loved one.
  2. Relax and take time for yourself. Do something (non-stressful) for yourself that you have been putting off.
  3. See you doctor regularly and don’t miss medical appointments. It is important to keep yourself healthy.
  4. Make time to be social.
  5. Be sure to eat nutritious meals and snacks.
  6. Make time for exercise. If your loved one can participate, go for a walk or plan to exercise together.
  7. Seek out caregiving resources in your community such as your local area agency on aging, day care programs, and meals on wheels.
  8. Consider joining a support group with people who are fellow caregivers.