Mental Health

Mental and behavioral health, both yours and theirs

“It’s always a challenge to stay ahead of someone with dementia.
It seems that just when I have it all figured out, he changes.”

Anyone can get caregiver stress, but more women caregivers say they have stress and other health problems than men caregivers. And some women have a higher risk for health problems from caregiver stress, including those who:

  • Care for a loved one who needs constant medical care and supervision. Caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia are more likely to have health problems and to be depressed than caregivers of people with conditions that do not require constant care.
  • Care for a spouse. Women who are caregivers of spouses are more likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol and are twice as likely to have heart disease as women who provide care for others, such as parents or children.

Women caregivers also may be less likely to get regular screenings, and they may not get enough sleep or regular physical activity.

Caregiver stress can take many forms. For instance, you may feel frustrated and angry one minute and helpless the next. You may make mistakes when giving medicines. Or you may turn to unhealthy behaviors like smoking or drinking too much alcohol.

Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling alone, isolated, or deserted by others
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Gaining or losing a lot of weight
  • Feeling tired most of the time
  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Becoming easily irritated or angered
  • Feeling worried or sad often
  • Having headaches or body aches often

A few simple steps can help prevent exhaustion and other issues that make a caregiver’s job more difficult:

  • Plan ahead to be sure you have the supplies and resources you need.
  • Learn about available resources that can lend support.
  • Take one day at a time.
  • Develop contingency plans for emergencies and obstacles.
  • Accept help – don’t take on more than you can handle.
  • Make YOUR health a priority.
  • Get enough rest and eat properly.
  • Make time for leisure.
  • Be good to yourself!
  • Share your feelings with others – it’s okay to be tired and frustrated.

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and ways to relieve stress. Also, let others give you a break. Reach out to family, friends, or a local resource. Providing care for an elderly person can be a rewarding experience, but caregivers also are subject to stress and frustration.