Caring for the Caregiver


Few people are prepared for the responsibilities and tasks involved in caring for loved ones who are ill, elderly, or disabled. The success of the relationship between you and your loved one depends on several factors. One of the most important is how well you take care of yourself, empowering yourself to be there for the person you are caring for. Let’s look first at what causes the stress in such a relationship, and then we will explore some ways to care for yourself as you care for another – caring for the caregiver.


Sources of Stress

Caring for someone who is sick or disabled causes tremendous stress. This stress comes from several directions and each has a different effect on the caregiver. The following are the main sources of such stress:

  1. Being far away: In most families, people are spread out across the country and are not always available to help with caring for a sick or elderly person. This places extra stress on the person nearby, who often must contribute the most in terms of time and money toward the patient’s care. The out-of-towners may not realize how much time and money the person close at hand is devoting to the care of their family member.
  1. Financial stress is inevitable when someone requires an excessive amount of care. For example: 
    • Many caregivers spend their own money to cover expense that are not covered by insurance or Medicare.
    • The family members who are less involved may not realized how expensive certain items are and may even resist certain items are and may even resist helping to pay for them.
    • The primary caregiver may have to work fewer hours or find less demanding work (which may pay less money). Many caregivers have to stop working completely in order to care for the patient. 
  1. Cultural expectations: In some cultures, daughters are expected to care for parents, and in other it is not acceptable to place relatives in nursing homes.
  1. Relationship Stress: In addition to the financial stress, all of these factors create enormous stress on the relationships among family members. This can lead to an additional layer of problems it if is not openly discussed and resolved.

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  1. Physical Stress: Caring for an ailing person can be physical challenge. Activities like cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and shopping can be exhausting, especially when they are added to the responsibilities of your own life.
  1. Home alterations: If the patient continues to live at home, you many need to make alterations such as building ramps or railings. Everyone in the home will have to adjust.
  1. Social stress: Providing personal care 24 hours a day can cut off the primary caregiver from family and friends. You may be too tired to hav an evening out, or you may not have anyone else to take over. This can result in your feeling angry and resentful toward the person you are caring for.
  1. Emotional stress: As a result of these stresses, it is not unusual to feel a range of emotions, including anger, resentment, anxiety, frustration, sadness, and guilt. These negative emotions may conflict with the love you feel for your family member and the satisfaction you feel from contributing to the quality of his or her life.


With all of these kinds of stress, it is not surprising that many caregivers become overwhelmed and begin to feel burned out.


Signs That a Caregiver Needs Help


How do you know if the stress is becoming too much for you? The following is a list of signs that you need help. Take a moment to look through these and identify those that are now problems for you and may be potential problems.

  1. You don’t get out much anymore.
  2. You argue with the person you care for.
  3. You have conflicts with other family members.
  4. You abuse drugs, alcohol, or medications.
  5. Your appetite has changed.
  6. You isolate yourself from others.
  7. You behave in a compulsive manner or are overly focused on minor details.
  8. You feel listless; you lack energy.
  9. You feel more angry, anxious, or worried than usual.
  10. You have a difficult time controlling your emotions.
  11. You have a hard time concentrating.
  12. You have physical symptoms of anxiety, such as an upset stomach, headaches, or a racing heart.
  13. You often forget things.
  14. You are clumsy or accident-prone.
  15. You have self-destructive or suicidal thoughts.
  16. You sleep more or less than usual.
  17. You never seem to get enough rest.
  18. You feel guilty about your situation.


Caregiver Survival Tips


  1. Find out about resources before you need them. For example, don’t delay researching nursing homes until the patient needs to be placed in one.
  2. Seek all the support you can find. Be on the lookout for groups, individuals, and organizations that provide emotional, social, physical, and financial support.
  3. Ask your family and friends for help. They may be able to provide you with time, knowledge, or money.
  4. Investigate adult day care facilities. They offer therapeutic, rehabilitative, and support services such as nursing, social work services, meals, or transpiration.
  5. Consider having meals delivered. Many organizations provide nutritional programs.
  6. Consider hiring a home health aide. Aides can provide personal care at home such as help with eating, dressing, oral hygiene, bathing, administering medication, and light household tasks.
  7. Find out about homemaker services. These services can assist with shopping, laundry, housecleaning, preparing meals, and taking clients to medical appointments.
  8. Look into the offerings of hospital and surgical supply services. They rent or seek medical supplies and equipment like hospital beds, canes, walkers, bath chairs, oxygen, and other equipment.
  9. Check out respite care series. They provide relief to caregivers.
  10. Look into social day care. They provide recreational activities, social work services, hot meals, transpiration, and some health services.
  11. Find out about transportation services. They provide transportation services to and from medical appointments or other care services.
  12. Find out about skilled nursing services. They offer professional help with specific medical problems.
  13. Maintain your interest. Keep balance in your life.
  14. Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Recognize what you can and cannot do.
  15. Maintain communication with your family and friends. When tensions and misunderstandings develop (and they will), address them quickly.
  16. Take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise, rest, and take time off.


Contact one of our counselors for help on Caring for the Caregiver. Our therapists are available for face to face sessions as online therapy sessions in limited areas.

To get started now give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.



Recommended Reading


Caring for Yourself While Caring for Your Aging Parents, Third Edition: How to Help, How to Survive

A thoroughly revised edition of the authoritative guide to caring for aging parents.
For women and men who are involved in caring for aging parents, and for those who see caregiving in their future, this empathetic and practical book offers complete coverage of all the practical issues you are likely to confront–while addressing the emotional stress and particular needs of caregivers


Caregiver’s Reprieve: A Guide to Emotional Survival when You’re Caring for Someone You Love

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy is a chronic nerve condition characterized by severe burning pain, excessive sweating, changes in the bones and skin, and extreme sensitivity to touch. This book provides holistic day-to-day strategies for managing the painful and often frustrating condition, as well as positive patient testimonies and the latest information on traditional and experimental interventions.

Caring for You, Caring for Me: Education and Support for Caregivers

Caring for persons with chronic illnesses or disabilities is a rewarding endeavor, but it often places extreme demands on those providing care. Caregivers need both education and support to understand their caregiving roles and to cope with the difficult situations they face.


The Caregivers’ Roller Coaster: A Practical Guide to Caregiving for the Frail Elderly

Caring for an aging parent or spouse can be gratifying and pleasurable or an exhausting nightmare. Most of the time, it is a combination of these feelings–literally, an emotional roller coaster. This book was written to offer a common sense approach to solving some of the day-to-day problems faced by family caregivers.


Taking Care Of Our Aging Parents : TIME Magazine Cover Story




John Greenwald, Elder Care: Making the Right Choice. Time Magazine, August 30, 1999.

Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP on Twitter
Rachel Eddins, M.Ed., LPC-S, CGP
Rachel’s passion is to help people discover their personal gifts and strengths to achieve self-acceptance, create a healthy relationship with food, mind and body, and find meaning and fulfillment in work and life roles. She helps people create nurturance and healing from within to restore balance and enoughness and overcome binge eating, emotional eating, anxiety, depression and lack of career fulfillment.

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