How to Recognize Caregiver Stress


Caregiver stress is often used to describe changes in mood and behavior that occur when providing care for a loved-one on a long-term basis. Unalleviated stressful conditions cause the caregiver to experience feelings of prolonged fatigue and frustration. The progression from stress to burnout to depression can happen quickly. Long-term detrimental effects can occur if the situation is not addressed. It is important to learn how to recognize the signs of caregiver stress.

Emotional Signs

Stress can affect the mind in many different ways. Unprovoked anger could be a sign of caregiver stress. Anger can manifest directly towards the person you are caring for, but could also develop towards other people. Consider how long these periods of anger last and how often they occur. Intensity and an increase in frequency are warning signs of greater distress to come.

Crying and dramatic mood swings with no identifiable cause is another sign. If these periods of intense emotions were not present prior to becoming a caregiver, re-evaluate the current situation.

An inability to concentrate could be a manifestation of caregiver stress. Is your mind racing uncontrollably? Is it difficult to mentally manage tasks or finish any one project before starting another? Is it overwhelming to manage simple tasks or organize your time? Do little things “set you off” or are you just over-reacting? Is there a feeling of being on edge or having a feeling like you could get pushed over the edge? Are you acting without thought of the outcomes or consequences?

If you answered “yes” to those questions, those are clear emotional signs of caregiver stress.

Physical Signs     

Changes in sleeping patterns may indicate that bigger problems are present. Consider the following:

  • Are you unable to fall asleep and stay asleep?
  • Is it difficult to calm your mind when preparing for sleep?
  • Do you find that you awake after only a few hours?
  • When you do finally awake, do you feel rested and rejuvenated?

Pain and fatigue without exertion are other indicators of stress. A general malaise and feeling of listlessness can take over the body. You might become prone to headaches and neck pain. It may be physically difficult to get out of bed each morning.

Have your eating habits or appetite changed? Stress affects different people in different ways. Some stress-eat for comfort while others lose their appetites completely. Beware of rapid changes in body weight.

Behavioral Signs

Some caregivers turn to drugs and alcohol as additional coping mechanisms. Drugs and alcohol temporarily depress the central nervous system creating a numbing or detached feeling. Do you find comfort in the thought of feeling high or feel the need to escape?

Overwhelmed caregivers may withdraw from social relationships for a variety of reasons. One reason might be to avoid talking about their situation. Do not turn down social engagements no matter how hard it may seem to keep the commitment. Friends and support networks will make the situation seem more bearable.

Caregiver stress can be easily denied and ignored. It is important to know the warning signs for caregiver stress. Pay attention to the clues your mind, body and spirit are showing you. Do not ignore them they are an early warning detection system.

Seek Assistance and Explore New Arrangements

If you are suffering from caregiver stress, know that you are not alone. Instead of continuing on your current path, a better option may be available to support you and the loved seniors in your life. The professionals at Kupuna Consulting are specialists in evaluating the needs of families like yours. For more information or to schedule a complimentary initial meeting, call 732-655-4770 or click here to contact us.