Don’t Forget about the Caregiver!

When someone is sick or aging, family and friends usually express concern over their loved one. This is a common reaction, especially when someone you care about is ill. However, it is also important to remember that the caregiver (who is likely another family member or friend) may also need help during this difficult time. Caregivers are sometimes forgotten while people, understandably, usually have their thoughts on the patient.

A caregiver’s life is impacted by their role of dedicating their life to caring for their loved one. While it can also be emotionally rewarding to be able to help someone they care about, it also can have negative effects. Caregivers often experience depression, anxiety and stress. In fact, according to, between 40 and 70 percent of caregivers have depression, many even meeting the criteria of major depression. Many caregivers also have anxiety.

Asking caregivers how they are feeling can bring answers such as “angry,” “frustrated” or “helpless.” In addition to those feelings, caregivers can lose a loss of their own identity, as their life is being defined by caring for someone else. This can lead to other mental health challenges, such as low self-esteem.

A caregiver can also experience physical signs of stress, such as exhaustion or memory loss stemming lack of sleep caused by stress. Caregivers complain of other physical problems, including headaches, stomach distress and aches. Some caregivers are so stressed that can even develop heart disease as a result.

So what can a caregiver do to help reduce their stress? For starters, they should not be afraid to ask for help. Perhaps care for the patient can be divided among several friends or family members instead of all the responsibilities falling on just one person. There are also support groups for caregivers, which can be a great place to openly talk about their feelings as well as hear tips about how to cope with the stress of providing care for a loved one.

If you know someone who is a caregiver, there are many things you can do to help. Bring over a home-cooked meal. Caregivers can forget to eat healthy, and spend their time worrying about their ill loved-one’s eating habits. Caregivers may also be neglecting their own home. Offering to come over and help them clean the house, mow their lawn, or grocery shop would be greatly appreciated. Even just a telephone call to let your loved one know you are thinking about them can make a world of difference.

Caregivers are people, too. Next time you think about a sick friend or family members with love, take an extra minute to think about the person who is helping care for them.

If you are a caregiver and need help caring for your loved one, please consider giving The Nurses Guild a call. We know how stressful your situation can be and we are here to help!