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Caregiver Syndrome - Caregiver Stress Syndrome

Updated on December 28, 2014

Stressed

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Caregiver Syndrome - Caused by Overwhelming Caregiving Activities

Caregiver Stress Syndrome is a term used to describe the physiological and psychological changes experienced as the result of chronic stress due to ongoing caregiving activities.

Caregiver Stress Syndrome are actual physiological, psychological and emotional symptoms that can result from the ongoing emotional strain of caregiving for a loved one, or attending to the all of the needs of a child or dependent adult.

Fortunately the impact of caregiving on the caregiver is starting to be recognized. Physicians (and family members) are being encouraged to identify those at risk for Caregiver Stress Syndrome, so they can get some help and some respite care.

Stressed by scottmliddell.

Aging Baby Boomers are increasing the numbers of people needing care

Caring for the Elderly

The Number of Caregivers on the Rise

If you don't already care for a family member who is aging, ill or dependent, there is a good chance that at some point you will be.

More Americans are finding themselves taking care of someone who's aging or ill or both. According to the American Academy of Geriatric Psychiatrists, one out of every four American families cares for someone over the age of 50.

As the current generation of baby boomers ages, that number is projected to skyrocket.

In 2000, the Census Bureau reported, just under 35 million Americans were 65 or over. The number of American over the age of 65 is projected to more than double, to more than 71 million by 2030.

LeRoy A. 2007. Exhaustion, anger of caregiving get a name. CNN.com Health Section.

Image: Cleveland Caregiver Handbook. A Guide for Individuals Who Care for Persons with Dementia. Preventing Stress from Becoming Harmful.

Could You Be Suffering from Caregiver Stress?

Questions to Ask Yourself about Caregiver Syndrome

Source: LeRoy A. Exhaustion, anger of caregiving get a name. CNN.com Health Section. 2007.

If you answer yes to any one of these, you may be suffering from caregiver stress.

  1. Do you take care of someone in your family with a chronic medical illness or dementia?
  2. Do you attend of the needs of a child in your family?
  3. Have you felt depression, anger or guilt?
  4. Has your health deteriorated since taking on the responsibility of caregiving?

Do any of these quotes describe how you feel as a caregiver? - More Questions to Consider

Source: Cleveland Caregiver Handbook. A Guide for Individuals Who Care for Persons with Dementia. A copy of this guide can still be found on Docstoc.

If you answer yes to any one of these, you may be suffering from caregiver stress.

  1. "I'm like a pot ready to boil over."
  2. "I used to go out and now I am a prisoner in my own home."
  3. "I feel like I am out of control."

Feeling the Stress

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Defining Caregiver Syndrome

A Debilitating Condition for the Caregiver

Caregiver Syndrome has been defined as:

  • A debilitating condition brought on by unrelieved, constant caring for a person with a chronic illness or dementia.

Source: Latham PH, Posner J. 2006. Caring For Persons With Dementia. Available from the American Stroke Association Website.

What is Caregiver Stress Syndrome?

Caregiver Stress Syndrome (CSS)

Proposed Defininition

Caregiver Stress Syndrome (CSS) is a proposed definition:

  • A syndrome found in caregivers involving pathological, morbid changes in physiological and psychological function. This syndrome can be the result of acute or chronic stress, directly as a result of caregiving activities.

Caregiver stress syndrome is the result of acute or chronic stress due to caregiving activities.

Source: Guia DM. 2003. Caregiver stress syndrome. Letters to the Editor. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients.

Chronic Caregiver's Stress may be like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

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Caregiving Can Damage the Health of the Caregiver

Caregiving can be very damaging on the health of the caregiver. According to a study published in 1999 in the Journal of the American Medical Association researchers Richard Schulz and Scott Beach from University of Pittsburgh reported that elderly caregivers are at a 63 percent higher risk of mortality than noncaregivers in the same age group.

They found that the physical symptoms of caregiver stress are a result of a prolonged and elevated level of stress hormones circulating in the body. Researchers likened exhausted caregivers' stress hormone levels to those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Additionally, the chronic stress of caring for someone can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes and a compromised immune system.

LeRoy A. 2007. Exhaustion, anger of caregiving get a name. CNN.com Health Section.

Stress by Carl Dwyer.

Caregiving can affect the Caregiver's Physical and Emotional Health

Common Physical Health Complaints of Caregivers - Caregiving Affects the Caregiver's Physical Health

In his 2003 article on Caregiver stress syndrome, Australian Research Journalist, David M. Guia described his finding from research on Caregiver stress. He likened exhausted caregivers' stress hormone levels to those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Physical symptoms that caregivers experience are a result of a prolonged and elevated level of stress hormones circulating in the body.

Some of these physical symptoms include:

  • Slow wound healing
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach complaints
  • An increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • An increased susceptibility to infection
  • Humoral and cellular immune dysfunction
  • High antibody titers to common viruses
  • Adrenal exhaustion
  • Altered catecholamine, steroid and hormone levels
  • Disruptions in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenalaxis
  • Many of the symptoms associated with chronic, unyielding stress

Source: Guia DM. 2003. Caregiver stress syndrome. Letters to the Editor. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients.

Common Emotional Health Complaints of Caregivers - Caregiving Affects the Caregiver's Emotions

In his 2003 article on Caregiver stress syndrome, Australian Research Journalist, David M. Guia described the emotional health complaints experienced by caregivers. Citing that not only do caregivers experience physical symptoms, but emotional ones as well. These emotional symptoms are listed below.

  • Grief
  • Anxiety
  • Resentment
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Helplessness
  • Despair
  • Depression

Source: Guia DM. 2003. Caregiver stress syndrome. Letters to the Editor. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients.

Stressed Woman

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Getting Caregivers to Get Help

Recognizing Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Stress

Many exhausted and ill caregivers do not seek help because they do not even realize that they have a recognizable condition--caregiver stress or the more prolonged version caregiver syndrome. One of the key things is to have someone if not the caregiver recognize the signs and symptoms.

Caregivers tend to be so immersed in their role that they neglect to take care of themselves. Caregiver stress is not only related to the daunting work of caregiving, but also the caregiver grief associated with the decline in the health of their loved ones.

The impact of caregiving on the caregiver is starting to be recognized. Getting the caregivers to recognize that they may be affected by their caregiving and then getting physicians to identify their patients at risk for Caregiver Stress Syndrome can help.

LeRoy A. 2007. Exhaustion, anger of caregiving get a name. CNN.com Health Section.

Stressed Woman by grietgriet

Discovering Caregiver Stress

Encouraging Physicians to Ask About Caregiver Stress

Physicians, too, are not always certain how to approach the issues raised by long-term caregiving. Although the term "caregiver syndrome" is widely used among allied health professionals such as hospice workers and nursing home assistants, the syndrome is not yet recognized in American medical literature. Without that official validation, it's not surprising that this problem is not addressed more by physicians.

A survey in the American Academy of Family Physicians found that fewer than half of caregivers were asked by their doctors whether they had caregiver stress. Vitaliano believes that more research should be done to help spread awareness.

LeRoy A. 2007. Exhaustion, anger of caregiving get a name. CNN.com Health Section.

Caregiver Stress, Caregiver Burden and Burnout

Helping Physicians to recognize Caregiver Stress and Caregiver Burden in their patients.

A Chance to Share Your Opinion

There are several different terms being used for caregivers who care too much. Some advocate labeling the impact of caregiving on caregivers as a 'syndrome.'

What do you think?

Pick your favorite term. They are listed alphabetically.


Which term do you prefer for caregivers who care too much?

See results

Caregiver Burnout is a Great Concern

Caregiver Burnout on YouTube

National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) Video on YouTube

National Family Caregiver Support Program

The U.S. Government and the U.S. Administration on Aging is an agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is one of the nation's largest providers of home- and community-based care for older persons and their caregivers.

Stop to Take a Break

Tips to Reduce the Stress of Caregiving - Video

Listen to some tips on helping reduce the stress of caregiving from Mental Health expert Arleen Fitzgerald presented by United Health Care TV.

Taking a Break - Respite Care

Respite provides caregivers a break from their daily responsibilities. Respite can cover a wide range of services based upon the unique needs of the caregiver.

Caring Connections offers several suggestions for what "respite" might mean:

  1. Medical or social adult day care for the loved one or friend
  2. A short-term stay in a nursing home or assisted living facility for the loved one or friend
  3. A home health aide or home health companion
  4. A private duty nurse

Take a Moment to Soak Your Feet

Woman Soaking Feet at a Spa
Woman Soaking Feet at a Spa | Source

Ways of Giving a Caregiver a Break

Caregivers should be sure to take a break often enough to maintain a healthy balance between caregiving and their own personal needs.

Suggested ways of giving the caregiver a break from Caring Connections include:

  1. Giving the caregiver a short break for a doctor's appointment or to go shopping
  2. Allowing the caregiver the opportunity to nap, bathe, or otherwise rejuvenate
  3. A break to attend a church service or see a movie
  4. Taking a much needed vacation
  5. Pampering oneself with a hair appointment or manicure
  6. Scheduling elective surgery
  7. Visit friends or other family members

Resources for Caregivers

Books to Help the Caregiver Keep Caregiving

A list of some of the books available on Amazon that focus on supporting caregivers and reminding them to care for themselves.

Caregiver Hub - Helping those who help others

Caregiver Hub provides resources for professionals and family member.

What do you do to manage your Caregiver stress?

© 2007 Kirsti A. Dyer

Comments on Caregiver Stress Syndrome

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    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 3 years ago from Northern California

      @CNelson01: Thank you for visiting. I've updated the old links. I hope you find them helpful.

    • CNelson01 profile image

      Chuck Nelson 3 years ago from California

      I am caregiver for my wife with Alzheimer's. I am not yet totally consumed but increasingly consumed by caregiving. It is my privilege to care for her but I am dealing with grief and depression because I am losing my best friend, confidant, lover, life partner, helpmate, etc. I also fight frustration because even simple things are no longer simple. I have been told of the hazards of being a caregiver and this article reinforces what I have been told. Many of your links are dead but thank you for providing this information. My goal is to remain healthy in order to care for her as long as I am needed...this information should help.

    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 3 years ago from Northern California

      @siobhanryan: Thank you. Glad it could help.

    • siobhanryan profile image

      siobhanryan 3 years ago

      WOW Blessed-super lens

    • siobhanryan profile image

      siobhanryan 3 years ago

      WOW Blessed-super lens

    • Sandy Spencer profile image

      Sandy Spencer 4 years ago from Phoenix

      Very informative and I think you covered so much about the tiring, yet fearless job of caregiver. I was caregiver for my Mom before she passed away with Alzheimer's.

    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 4 years ago from Northern California

      @laurenrich: You are welcome.

    • profile image

      laurenrich 4 years ago

      I am currently learning all I can about caregiving and the stress of a caregiver. This lens is very informative and helpful. Thanks for sharing this information.

    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 4 years ago from Northern California

      @HomeCareInArizona: Thank you.

    • profile image

      HomeCareInArizona 4 years ago

      So much is written about the care recipient and until recently no one focused on what the caregiver, especially the family caregiver has to deal with. Dealing with our clients in the Phoenix area we see this all the time. From siblings who are just "too busy" or too distant to help, it is left to one family member to deal with it all. If this member has children living at home and a job...WOW you can just watch that person deteriorate before your eyes. Good information here which needs to be repeated.

    • profile image

      selecthomecare 4 years ago

      This is a very informative lens. I have a few people I know I'm going to recommend that read this. Thank you.

    • jerbo63 profile image

      jerbo63 4 years ago

      A very good lens. Lots of indebth information and presented in pieces that are easy to understand.

    • HealthfulMD profile image
      Author

      Kirsti A. Dyer 4 years ago from Northern California

      @LiteraryMind: Caregivers are truly heroes for what they do, especially in keeping so many people home rather than in the hospitals or in skilled nursing facilities.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      The Purple Star is well deserved for this lens. It really make a lot of good points and should be helpful to a lot of caregivers. It's also great to make others realize how hard it is on caregivers.

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 5 years ago from Vermont

      My mother definitely showed the signs of caregiver stress or burnout when she was caregiver to my father for several years. Fortunately one sister in law / nurse who was also her own mother's end of life caregiver years before was able to give her good insight and I plus my brothers helped out by giving her time to get away and take a break periodically while we stayed with Dad. My mother worries about this very issue should she need a caregiver and has made provisions for professional care if that happens.

    • profile image

      JGracey 5 years ago

      Really nice to see this issue being addressed. Five + years of caring for my mom with alzheimer's took more out of me than I knew - didn't really know til after she passed in fact. Five years later, I'm at the edge of recovery. It's a long road back. Thanks for sharing with others - an important topic often not talked about.

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 5 years ago

      Our family has had to do caregiving of one kind or another for most of our lives having a disabled brother, a father that had a stroke and has passed on, a mother who needs someone with her all the time now...at this point my sister is carrying a lot of the load and I am going to be helping by filling in some days. We've all done our part along the way and yes...it is tiresome...draining on the health. Your tips are helpful! Chose this as a wonderful page for the stress quest.

    • profile image

      Goralski 5 years ago

      thanks for the resources listed!

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 5 years ago from California

      An excellent lens about a very important and stressful job. Caregiver is a hard, hard job and one that I don't believe everyone can handle. It is very stressful and your lens really points that out well as well as giving advice and things to do to decompress. Thank you for sharing our expertise. Bear hugs, Frankster

    • joykennel profile image

      joykennel 5 years ago

      great lens---helpful to hear that others are in the same boat when the pot's about to boil over!! Thanks again ComfortDoc!!

    • profile image

      teo_mar 5 years ago

      great lens! SquidLike!!!!!

    • nightbear lm profile image

      nightbear lm 5 years ago

      People have guilt for admitting that they need a break. What a great caring, concerning page. thank you. blessed.

    • profile image

      bookmarkme 5 years ago

      so needed this lens. thanks good information here for me and hubby.

    • LittleLindaPinda profile image

      Little Linda Pinda 5 years ago from Florida

      Thank you for all the information and help and understanding. I am not in this situation yet but my mom is getting older and staying with us more. This is something I have been preparing myself for. I used to be a Licensed Practical Nurse in a nursing home which is totally different than being a round the clock caregiver.

      God Bless Everyone for giving so much.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      A very excellent lens. I am a caregiver and it can be very stressful at times, you mentioned some great suggestions. I would not take anything for having the time to take care of my husband. This is what I would want him to do fo me.

    • Rosaquid profile image

      Rosaquid 5 years ago

      Thank you for this helpful information.

    • profile image

      tinamahan 5 years ago

      I can certainly identify with this. I think most people that are caregivers experience a lot of stress, even resentment, which would be hard for someone to admit, especially when we are caring for a family member. Thank you for explaining the symptoms and sharing this with us. Great job!

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      The big challenge with Caregiver Stress is that there are no perfect solutions. If you're trying to help someone who is attacking you, you are stuck between offering help and protecting yourself.

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      This is a syndrome that an increasing number of us will become familiar with, if we aren't already, as more and more of us find ourselves caring for aging parents... This is an important resource. Thank you for shinging a light!

    • KReneeC profile image

      KReneeC 5 years ago

      What an amazing lens. Thank you so much for your great and informative tips.

    • LewesDE profile image

      LewesDE 5 years ago

      Nice lens. Interesting reading!

    • NickyT LM profile image

      NickyT LM 5 years ago

      An important lens that I am grateful to have found and read. Stress is certainly incredibly debilitating. Good resource. Thank you.

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 5 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      I am so happy to see that you received a purple star for this lens. I can identify with this problem and was happy to read the lens and watch the YouTubes. This lens has helped me understand how my siblings might feel. Thank you. Blessed.

    • profile image

      iCare4uk 5 years ago

      An excellent lens, good to see this subject being tackled.

    • Lenskeeper profile image

      Lenskeeper 5 years ago

      This is an important issue. There are so many people that basically give up their own lives to be caregivers and don't take care of themselves the way that they should. It's a really tough situation.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

      I'm linking you into my new lens about hospice (sadly, the link isn't working - reported a bug). I think you have one of the most valuable lenses I've seen.

    • AgingIntoDisabi profile image

      AgingIntoDisabi 5 years ago

      So many caregivers have to deal with

      this. Can't talk about it too much.

    • ForestBear LM profile image

      ForestBear LM 5 years ago

      Thank you for this wonderful lens. Very informative and well worth bookmarking. Thank you for sharing.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 6 years ago

      What a wonderful resource you've provided to people such as me. I care full time for my 94 year old mother and recognize myself in a lot of this article. People fail to see the level of work we caregivers do day in and day out. Thanks. I've bookmarked this and will digest it when I have a moment. Thanks again. Lori

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I came here out of curiosity. I'm strongly considering moving to live with my 84 year old dear Mom and someone was just talking to me about the stress that can be involved. I knew you would have some things to consider. I sure will keep this in mind!

    • profile image

      TNTonya 6 years ago

      As a person living with a chronic seizure disorder I have access to many caregivers giving care to family members living with chronic seizure disorders.

      This lens is found to be very helpful and i will pass it on to those that need the information.

    • makingamark profile image

      Katherine Tyrrell 6 years ago from London

      This a really excellent lens.

      I've met very many carers as part of my job in a past life and a number of these had succumbed to very serious illnesses as a result of their care-giving.

      There is an excellent carers association in the UK - see http://www.carersuk.org/Home - which provides very good information and a lot of help and support through local groups and an online forum

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image

      VarietyWriter2 6 years ago

      Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

    • journey103 profile image

      journey103 7 years ago from USA

      Love your lens - especially the part about pampering yourself. As a caregiver I have found that you cannot spend all of your time with a home-bound loved one - you need a break not just for your own sanity, but so you'll have more to share and talk about when you are together. 5 stars!

    • profile image

      homecarediva 7 years ago

      I looked at your lens while creating my own. I like your work!

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens, important topic - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)

    • TribalDancer LM profile image

      TribalDancer LM 8 years ago

      I'm adding this to my Caring for the Caregiver page. Good work!

    • TribalDancer LM profile image

      TribalDancer LM 8 years ago

      I'm adding this to my Caring for the Caregiver page. Good work!

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      Hello Kirsti - nice job putting together a really useful Lens on a much overlooked topic. Caregiver Syndrome, I saw it with a friend and that got me interested in Day Care for Seniors.

    • profile image

      the-secret 9 years ago

      Hi,

      I like your lens. I am really into healing and health givers. There comes a time when we are in a position to help the ones left behind. I wrote an article, Ten Ways To Support Someone Who Is Grieving, I hope you like it. My website gives tips on healing. Free Aches And Pains Tips!

    • profile image

      Home-healthcare 9 years ago

      Outstanding resource to help the family caregiver. I know caregiver stress firsthand, and my heart goes out to everyone living through this. If they heed the advice here, though, they will be able to stay healthy and balanced, and to enjoy those special moments with their loved one that they would never have any other way.

    • profile image

      Casey42 9 years ago

      A Care Book is a small booklet which holds important information for people receiving care. You can create your own Care Book (for free of course) at http://www.caregiverhub.com

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