Caregiver Stress: The Impact of Long Term Illness on the Family
Some health problems last for a long time or do not go away. Examples are Parkinson’s disease, AIDS, cancer, or Alzheimer’s disease. Many people with long term conditions need help with daily routines.
Caregiving can be very stressful. Caregivers often have to take care of their families and work. Their stress may spread to family, friends, and coworkers.
Signs of Stress
Be alert for signs of stress. They can affect both the caregiver and the person with the condition. Signs are:
- Anger, sometimes leading to violence
- Uneasiness or anxiety
- Lasting sadness, low mood, or loss of interest in life
- Being very tired
- Stress-related physical problems, such as digestive issues or insomnia
For caregivers stress may come from:
- Extra demands on time and energy
- Changes in family roles and responsibilities
- Changes in work time
- Not having a balanced life
For the person with long term conditions, stress may be due to:
- Not being able to work or do certain activities
- Changes in friendships or work relationships
- Physical changes and side effects
- Management of symptoms and medicines
- Healthcare costs
Steps to Care for Yourself
Long term illnesses can bring heavy demands. Here are some tips to help:
- Ask for help from family and friends. This includes older children who can help with chores.
- Take breaks —Schedule quiet time. Visit with supportive friends. Take regular days off from routine. Home health agencies may offer respite care. Also, look into adult day care programs.
- Take care —Eat balanced meals and get as much sleep as you can. Check with a doctor about any ongoing problems.
- Understand your limits —You cannot do everything for everyone. Look for local and state caregiver resources. Find ones that offer physical and emotional support.
- Get emotional support —Seek out a counselor or support group. It will help ease feelings of isolation, anger, and frustration.
- Plan ahead —Get professional help for legal, money, or long-term health issues. Do this before you need them. Accept that your loved one's health may change. You may not be able to help any further. If needed, seek guidance for end-of-life issues.
You do not need to go through this alone. There are resources to help you and your loved one. Reach out and contact someone for the support you deserve.
Family Caregiver Alliance
US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living
Alzheimer Society of Canada
Alzheimer dementia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/alzheimer-dementia. Accessed June 28, 2021.
Caregiver health and wellness. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at:https://familydoctor.org/caregiver-health-and-wellness/ . Accessed June 28, 2021.
Caregiver stress. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/caregiver-stress/. Accessed June 28, 2021.
Take care of you yourself. Alzheimer's Association website. Available at: http://www.alz.org/national/documents/brochure_caregiverstress.pdf. Accessed June 28, 2021.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 6/28/2021