Who is a caregiver?
A caregiver is an unpaid friend or family member who cares for a frail or disabled adult.
It can be extremely difficult to find time to arrange care for your loved one while you juggle other family and work obligations.
Watch out for these signs of caregiver stress:
- Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Gaining or losing a lot of weight
- Becoming easily irritated or angry
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Having frequent headaches or body pain
- Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
These symptoms can indicate depression, a serious disease that requires medical attention. If you have these symptoms or suicidal thoughts, please see a doctor as soon as possible.
Tips to Help Manage Caregiver Stress
First things first: don’t beat yourself up. It's normal to feel guilty that you’re not doing enough, but remember that no one is a perfect caregiver. Know that you are doing the best you can and making the best decisions you can at any given time.
Help others help you.
Many people will ask you, "Is there anything I can do for you?" Take advantage of their generosity by asking for something specific. It can be helpful to give the person a choice between several things that would help, so be prepared with a list and let the helper choose what he or she would like to do.
"Could you bring dinner by on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday this week?"
"If I give you a key, could you come let the dogs out when I’m at the hospital?"
"Can you please pack Johnny’s lunches and take him to school this week?"
"Can you bring a bottle of wine over Saturday night and let me vent a little?"
Break it up.
Break overwhelming tasks into smaller steps. Prioritize, make lists, and establish a daily routine.
Eliminate unnecessary obligations. Say no to requests that are draining, such as hosting family dinners or holiday events.
"I don’t think I’m up to hosting Thanksgiving this year; can we go to a restaurant instead?"
Join a support group.
A support group can validate your feelings, provide encouragement, and help you think through problem-solving strategies. Most people who join support groups find the experience rewarding and helpful. Find support groups for caregivers
Connect with family and friends who can offer nonjudgmental emotional support. Even though you are busy, try to set aside time each week for socializing, even if it's just a quick walk with a friend.
Set healthy goals.
Set a goal to be in bed with the lights out by 10 pm. Set a goal to work out four days a week and mark the days off on your calendar. Set a goal to meditate for five minutes every morning and evening.
Call for Help
Respite vouchers, support groups, and referrals for caregivers are available through our ten statewide Area Agencies on Aging. Find your local Area Agency on Aging using the tool in the sidebar of this page.
Search for Help
Search our database for services that can provide respite and support for caregivers, or browse by category to see what services are available.
For more information and support for caregivers, download the AARP's planning guide for families or visit AARP's Family Caregiver Video Series.