Skip to Content

NorthShore’s online source for timely health and wellness news, inspiring patient stories and tips to lead a healthy life.

Healthy You

Stress Management for Caregivers

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 9:04 AM

There are many rewards but also many responsibilities that come with palliative caregiving. And while many caregivers say that those rewards make the effort worth it, there is no denying that the responsibilities caregivers shoulder on a daily basis can be stressful. Studies show that between 40-70% of caregivers suffer significant levels of stress and about half of significantly stressed caregivers meet the criteria for major depression. 

Recognizing and celebrating those rewards and learning to acknowledge when stress levels are too high are essential for the physical and mental well-being of all caregivers, both familial and professional. 

Michael Marschke, MD, palliative care physician at NorthShore, shares his recommendations on how caregivers can best cope with and manage stress:

  • Pay attention to your own health needs. A healthy, balanced diet, plenty of sleep and regular checkups are just as important for the person providing care as they are for the person receiving it. A well-rested, healthy caregiver is a happier caregiver.
  • Exercise! There’s no better natural stress-reliever than regular exercise. Physical activity loosens tight muscles, and fills the body and brain with endorphins, helping to produce a feeling of well-being.
  • Live your own life. Don’t put your life on hold while caring for another. Maintain your ties to friends and family and don’t abandon your own daily routines. Protect this time for yourself outside your caregiver role. If Friday night was always set aside for happy hour with friends, keep that on your calendar.
  • Create your own space. For caregivers taking care of family members at home, it might be difficult to do but try. This space should be separate from your caregiver role. Make it into a retreat where you can do things you enjoy or a place that makes you feel calm. 
  • Ask for help. You can’t do everything on your own and you shouldn’t be ashamed to admit it. When someone offers to help, don’t say no. Many hands make light work. Delegate tasks like laundry and grocery shopping to those willing to help.
  • Don’t ignore your own mental health. Have someone you can talk to about any stresses or fears—a physician or a friend. Also consider joining a support group. They can be a safe and supportive setting where you can freely and without judgment share your fears and frustrations with others who are dealing with many of the same issues.

Remember that in order to provide quality care to a family member or a client you have to care for yourself too. Once you do, the rewards of caregiving will be that much richer.

Have you ever cared for an elderly or disabled family member? Are you currently employed as a palliative caregiver? If so, how did you cope with stress?