Physical Signs of Caregiver Stress

by Lois Etienne on September 1, 2010

in Caregiver Support

When you’re a caregiver it’s easy to forget about your own needs. After all, you’re a caregiver not a me-giver. Right? Well, yes and no. As difficult as it might seem, you need to pay attention to yourself too. Why? One study done by Elissa Epel from the University Woman with Caregiver Stressof California found that family caregivers experiencing extreme stress have been shown to age prematurely. This level of stress can take as much as 10 years off a caregiver’s life.

So how do you know if caregiver stress is affecting you? Look for these common physical signs of caregiver stress:

  • Disturbed Sleep
  • Back, shoulder or neck pain, muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Stomach/digestive problems (upset or acid stomach, cramps, heartburn, gas, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea)
  • Weight fluctuation (gain or loss)
  • Loss of hair
  • Fatigue
  • High blood pressure, irregular heart beat, palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Perspiration
  • Skin disorders (hives, eczema, psoriasis, tics, itching)
  • Periodontal disease, jaw pain
  • Reproductive problems/infertility
  • Weakened immune system suppression: more colds, flu, infections
  • Sexual dysfunction/lack of libido

If you are experiencing some of the signs listed above, consider talking with a healthcare professional that can help you to evaluate your situation. You are not alone. Getting support will help reduce caregiver stress, as well as reduce the associated risks of ongoing stress.

For more information or to get answers to your questions, please contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office.  We can be reached — anytime day or night – by calling Spokane509.835.5898North King/Snohomish Counties425.670.2292 or South King/Pierce Counties253.943.1603. You can also email us at

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda R. November 20, 2010 at 3:33 am

After watching my Mother struggle to care for my father (her husband of 60+ yrs) Had I known the results of her exhaustion and fatigue, things would have been very different! Yet, Blind as we are to these situations, Me nor any of my 6 other siblings recognized the severity of her overwhelmed state, until that day! My father who was suffering from spinal stenosis, COPD, and many other health problems was in need of constant care. On Dec. 6th 2007 my Mother was driving to her volunteer job with the local food bank, she fell asleep at the wheel and flipped her car end over end, landing upside down in a ditch, just feet from a cement brick wall… Taken to the hospital where they examined her and sent her home with pain pills and muscle relaxers, she spent 8 days laying on the couch in horrible pain. With my encouragement, the Dr. ordered an MRI, On Dec. 14th (at the same time my father had an appointment with an oncologist), My father was told that day that he had terminal cancer and to go home to prepare to die) My Mother was phoned on the trip home saying pull over wait for the ambulance to get you, your neck is broken, you could die if you move… Taken by ambulance to Harborview hospital with a double back surgery (neck and lower lumbar) on Friday the 15th of Dec. Hospice came to help my Father with this stage of his life, on Sat. the 16th of Dec. On Monday Dec. 18th we brought my Mother home from the hospital to recover in their livingroom where we now had two hospital beds and round the clock care for both of them! My father passed away just over 5 weeks later. Don’t let this be you! We need to help those family caregivers, they do not realize what is at stake!


Lois Etienne November 20, 2010 at 4:45 pm

This is truly one of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard and I’m so sorry for your situation. It’s true that we are a society that does NOT want to prepare, talk about or even think about what troubles others are going through until a crisis happens. I believe that as baby boomers, we need to arm ourselves with as much education about the most common problems for our mothers and fathers BEFORE crisis mode hits. That’s the purpose of our blog and we hope you continue to find it helpful.


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