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Is Caregiver Stress Sneaking Up on You?

During National Stress Awareness month this April, we shine the spotlight on caregiver stress, a common elder care challenge.

During National Stress Awareness month this April, we want to call attention to a serious and often overlooked byproduct of caring for elderly relatives: stress.

Why is Caring for Elderly Loved Ones So Stressful?

Looking after the older adults we care about can be rewarding, yet the challenges are real. Here's why:

Emotional Strain

Witnessing a loved one's decline in health or cognitive abilities can be emotionally taxing. It can be distressing to see someone who was once independent become increasingly reliant on others for their daily needs.

Physical Demands

Depending on the level of care required, caregiving can involve physically demanding tasks such as lifting, bathing, and assisting with mobility. This can take a toll on the caregiver's own physical health, especially if they are not accustomed to such activities.

Financial Pressure

The cost of caring for an elderly loved one can be significant, especially if they require specialized medical care, home modifications, or assisted living facilities. Financial strain can exacerbate stress, particularly if the caregiver has to navigate complex healthcare or insurance systems.

Time Commitment

Caregiving often requires a significant amount of time and can disrupt the caregiver's own schedule, leading to feelings of frustration and a sense of loss of personal time and freedom.

Social Isolation

Caregivers may feel isolated from friends and social activities as their focus shifts primarily to the needs of their loved one. This social isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and contribute to stress.

Balancing Multiple Responsibilities

Many caregivers have to juggle caregiving responsibilities with other obligations such as work, raising children, or managing their own household. This can create a constant sense of pressure and overwhelm.

Guilt and Self Doubt

Caregivers may experience feelings of guilt if they feel they are not doing enough for their loved one or if they need to make difficult decisions about their care. They may also doubt their abilities to provide adequate care, leading to increased stress and anxiety.

Uncertainty about the Future

Caring for an elderly loved one often involves navigating uncertain and unpredictable health outcomes. This uncertainty about the future can be distressing and make it difficult for caregivers to plan for their own lives.

Caregiver Stress is Hard to Recognize

The sneaky part about caregiver stress is that the people who experience don't always notice it. Why does this happen?


Caregivers may become so accustomed to the demands of caregiving that they perceive their stress as a normal part of the role. They may downplay their own feelings of stress and exhaustion, believing that it is simply what is expected of them as a caregiver.

Prioritizing the Needs of Others

Caregivers often prioritize the needs of their elderly loved ones above their own, leading them to neglect their own well-being. They may focus so much on providing care and support that they fail to recognize the toll it is taking on their own physical and emotional health.


Caregivers may experience feelings of guilt or obligation, believing that they should be able to handle the demands of caregiving without complaint. They may fear being perceived as selfish or inadequate if they admit to feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

Lack of Awareness

Some caregivers may simply lack awareness of the signs and symptoms of stress, especially if they are unfamiliar with the concept of caregiver stress or burnout. They may not realize that their physical symptoms, such as headaches or fatigue, are related to stress.


There can be a stigma associated with acknowledging feelings of stress or burnout, particularly in cultures where there is a strong emphasis on family caregiving. Caregivers may fear being judged or misunderstood if they admit to struggling with their caregiving responsibilities.

Fear of Change

Caregivers may worry that acknowledging their stress could lead to changes in their caregiving situation, such as the need for additional support or the placement of their loved one in a care facility. They may resist seeking help or support out of fear of losing control over the situation.

Coping Mechanisms

Some caregivers may cope with their stress by denying or minimizing their feelings, using avoidance or distraction techniques, or turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse, overeating, or other self-destructive behaviors. These coping mechanisms can prevent caregivers from recognizing and addressing their stress in a constructive way.

It's important to prioritize your own well-being and seek support when needed to prevent burnout. Like the flight attendants say before takeoff as they explain how to use your oxygen masks, caring for yourself is the only way to preserve your ability to provide quality care for your loved ones. These resources will help:

Mental Health American (MHA) provides tips on how to reduce your stress by utilizing a Stress Screener.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and familiarize yourself with strategies for stress management.

Originally developed and tested by the American Medical Association, the Caregiver Health Self Assessment Questionnaire helps caregivers look at their own behavior and health risks. With their healthcare provider's help, this questionnaire can also help caregivers make decisions that may benefit both the caregiver and the older person.

Are you caring for elderly loved ones and looking for a way to ease the stress of the long-term care journey? Johnson McGinnis Elder Care Law & Estate Planning can help. Give us a call at 615.824.2571.



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