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A caregiver is someone who provides care for a person. This handout describes the strain this role can have on your mental health.

What is caregiver role strain?

Caregiver role strain is when caregivers find it hard to perform their roles or feel stressed because of:

  • Financial burdens

  • Increased responsibility

  • Change in family life

  • Role change

What are signs of role strain?

  • Social withdrawal

  • Loss of interest in hobbies

  • Excessive anger

  • Health problems

  • Sleep problems (too much or not enough)

  • Feeling very tired

  • Thoughts of death or suicide

  • Feeling irritable

  • Change in appetite

  • Trouble concentrating 

  • Feeling worthless or guilty

  • Crying easily or for no reason

  • Loss of interest in sex

  • Moody

Is what I am feeling normal?

Yes, it is normal. It is not easy to care for someone with an illness. It is normal to feel lonely, angry, or guilty. 

What can I do?

Organize your life. Write down your daily routine. Put the list in the order of importance. It is okay to change your priorities when something out of your control happens. Have easy access to the person’s health records and make sure they are in order. Have a list of phone numbers, medicines, and other important information. Know your limits. Know that there are things you cannot control.

Build a support team. These are people you can count on at any time. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Accept help if someone offers. Your support team may include family members, friend, chaplain, counselor, nurse or doctor. Make sure to talk with your support team about your feelings. Keep a journal. Take time out for yourself. Spending time with family and friends is a great way to relax. We also suggest you use home health care, family, friends, or respite care. It is okay for you to take time to enjoy your favorite pastime at least once a week. The support from others is the key to your success.

Eat healthy meals every day. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plenty of water are a great way to start. Use your favorite foods during stressful times as a comfort food. Prepare extra portions and place them into containers to freeze for a quick meal. Consider Meals on Wheels and other programs that provide healthy meals at a small charge delivered right to your home.

Look at the positive. Take pride in what you know and what you can do. Although giving care can be hard, you are doing great things for your loved one. Use humor.

Find time together. You are a team. Talk about the care you provide and your relationship. Find time together to do things you enjoy. You could go for a picnic or on a date.

Take care of your own health. Taking care of someone takes a lot of energy. Allow yourself to take a break from care giving. It is healthy for you and your loved one. To care for someone you also need to care for yourself. To care for yourself: 

  • Get plenty of sleep.

  • Exercise often.

  • Do quick stretches to help reduce tension and maintain muscle tone.

  • Keep your faith.

  • Keep doing the things you enjoy.

  • Don’t forget to laugh. 

Where could I go for more help?

Talk with a member of your health care team if you are feeling any symptoms of strain. Below is a list of resources that may be helpful.

When your loved one’s life changes, so does yours.

Support Group at UW-Hospital G5/142

To sign up call Penny at 608-263-8574 or email pandrews@uwhealth.org.

Share the Care

Book by Cappy Caposseia and Sheila Warnock

Fireside, 2004

www.sharethecare.org

Area Agency on Aging of Dane County

www.co.dane.wi.us/aging/

The National Family Caregivers Association

http://www.thefamilycaregiver.org/index.cfm

Caregiver.com

www.caregiver.com

Read issues of Today’s Caregiver Magazine

Net of Care’s Information & Resources for Caregivers

http://www.netofcare.org

Family Caregiver Alliance

www.caregiver.org

Bilingual information in Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.

Family Caregiving 101

www.familycaregiving101.org

National Caregivers Library

www.caregiverslibrary.org/

Medicare Caregiver Information

http://medicare.gov/campaigns/caregiver/caregiver-resource-kit.html

Eldercare Locator

http://www.eldercare.gov/