Asking for Help is a Sign of Strength

Respite for Caregivers, Home Care Companies, Elder Care in Minnesota, Affordable Home Care, Assisted Home Care, Care for Older People, Elderly Home Care ServiceUnless you are doing it yourself, it’s difficult to imagine just how demanding caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease can be.  Being “alert” 24/7 takes a toll on a caregiver physically, emotionally, and mentally.  Most of the time, people around the caregiver notice signs of “caregiver burnout” before the caregiver is able to see it.  If ignored, caregiver stress can lead to significant health issues in the caregiver.

When I meet with family members who are stretching themselves thin while taking care of elderly parents, the questions I like to ask are these:

1.  “If something happens to you, then who will care for your loved one?”

2.  “If your positions were reversed, would you want your loved ones to devote themselves so extensively to your care that they ruined their own health?”

3.  “Is this what your loved one would want for you?”


Some Common Signs of Caregiver Stress:

  • Fatigue, headaches, or stomach problems
  • Feeling like you have no time for yourself
  • Excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs
  • Emotional symptoms that may include anger, grief, depression, or guilt
  • Tension, irritability, snapping at people or situations
  • Feeling overwhelmed most of the time
  • Tired.   All the time.
  • Not being able to have a good laugh
  • Denial about the disease and the effects on you and your loved one
  • Thoughts about violence against the person for whom you are caring
  • Changes in relationships—with the person you care for, with friends, and with family members
  • Social withdrawal and isolation; feeling alone and disconnected from family and friends
  • Anxiety about the future and about facing another day
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Sleep disturbances or sleeplessness caused by a never-ending list of concerns and things to do


I have seen it many times.  The caregiver’s medical condition(s) get exacerbated by the stress, the caregiver gets ill, ends up in the hospital, and there is no one at home to care for the person with memory loss.  That person then ends up placed in a long-term care facility or an assisted living facility.  Perhaps that would have been the end result eventually, but in most cases, proactive planning will allow both the caregiver and the care receiver to remain happy and stable at home for much longer.  A good part of the planning needs to include self care for the caregiver.  There are many sources of help for senior caregivers, both formal and informal, if you are open to asking for it.

Sources for Help:

  • Share care giving duties with family members, neighbors, and friends.
  • Find healthcare professionals and organizations who are willing to help.
  • Take short breaks throughout the day, go to lunch with friends, or take longer breaks called “respite care.”
  • Hire in-home assistance from medical and non-medical senior care agencies to help with showering and bathing, medication set-up, companionship, housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, and other chores.
  • Join a support group.
  • Seek professional counseling.
  • Hire a care manager.


These are all proven ways to help you manage the stress that comes with care giving. Anything you can do to help yourself will ultimately help the person you are caring for.  Taking time for yourself is not being disloyal, ungrateful, or selfish.  It is being wise, appropriate, and healthy.

Julie Ellingson, LSW

July 18, 2012


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