Five Signs of Caregiver Stress: Are You in Danger?

September 25, 2009 at 4:12 pm 2 comments

Caregiver stress is very real problem. When we ask our bodies and our emotions to carry the weight (sometimes physically as well as metaphorically) of caring for another person, we literally tax all of our systems. If you’ve been caregiving for several years, you are wearing down your immune system, and unless you find ways to refuel, you’ll run out of gas.

It’s amazing how good we are to our cars–and not ourselves. We may run our car down to the “E” for empty, but we know that if we run out of gas on the side of the road, there are consequences, so we avoid them and put gas int he car. How can we not think that same principle applies to us? How can we go without sleep, stuff our faces with low-nutrient food, take no time to walk or meet friends or plan financially for our own futures–and somehow we expect to live like this? Without consequences?

Five Signs of Caregiver Stress:

  • Sleep issues–insomnia, falling asleep within minutes of sitting down, sleeping as a form of escape
  • Inability to think straight–forgetting things in mid-sentence, can’t follow a conversation, difficulty comprehending what you could before. This is your brain throwing out warning signs–listen to them.
  • Little accidents–giving the wrong dose of medication, forgetting where you’re driving, zoning out, fender benders
  • Inability to control your emotions–tears, outbursts, uncontrollable laughter at inappropriate moments–or an inability to feel anything at all, no matter how serious. Don’t rule out depression–when we feel we have no choice, we implode.
  • Starting to show physical signs–high blood pressure, a new diagnosis–an ulcer, a respiratory problem (asthma, bronchitis), arthritis and other inflammatory based illnesses. Your body is trying to tell you something

These warning signs are the equivalent of your car knocking, sputtering, and breaking down on the side of the road. You can ignore a few signs for a period of time, but after while, the car simply won’t run.

Why not take care of yourself better than you take care of your car? Cars are replaceable.

 Your health (and your life) isn’t.

Entry filed under: brain fitness, caring for parents, elder care, family caregiving.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Susan Fuller  |  September 27, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    I agree that lack of self care contributes significantly to caregiver stress, but I’m not sure your ‘5 signs of Caregiver Stress’ are so much indicators of stress as they are of grief.

    One of the great stressors in taking care of an aging or ill parent, is the unacknowledged grief we’re experiencing. This is especially true when the illness itself presents a series of losses one on top of the other as in Alzheimer’s.

    The key to dealing with grief is to follow it and feel it, but when actively caring for someone there is rarely time. The bigger obstacle is the fear that once we go near the grief we won’t be able to pull ourselves out again to go back to caregiving.


  • 2. Steve  |  October 1, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Hi Susan,
    You certainly know the stages of caregiving/grief well. I certainly experienced those feelings of loss(es) with my mom. Alzheiimer’s means you say goodbye again and again–and yes–you have to keep going–which is an ironic blessing. It’s that thread of “have to make breakfast, have to make these calls” that keeps us (at least it kept me) from collapsing and giving into the overwhelming fear.
    I found that greif (before my mom died and after) comes in waves and has to be absorbed a little at a time. It’s too powerful and will drown you otherwise.
    The challening part about writing a blog is that you just can’t say everything you want and need to say! I do appreciate you chiming in and reminding me and our readers that if we take a moment to experience our loss and grief, we honor where we are.
    ~Carol O’Dell


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Hi, I'm Carol O'Dell. This blog will include stories and lessons I've learned while caring for my mom, and now as I speak to caregivers around the country. I hope to offer suggestions, ideas and insights that will help others.

While this blog is supported by Dakim Brain Fitness, I’m not blogging to promote the Dakim company or products. Instead, I’m writing about how caring and being cared for affects your life and your family. My hope is that this blog gives you a place to learn, reflect, gain new perspective to make it another day.

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