Caregiver Stress Management

Media Type

Info Sheet

Reviewed Date

Mar 1, 2018


A disability often occurs suddenly and can change your whole world, creating a lot of stress. There are medical issues and questions about the future. There are physical and emotional demands. The person who has been injured or disabled will often require special care. Caring for a person with a disability can be very rewarding but also very hard.

The term ”caregiver stress” is used to show that caring for someone with a disability is physically and emotionally difficult. It is normal for caregivers to feel anger, guilt, depression, loneliness, anxiety and fatigue and to have these questions:
•Can I really do this?
•Am I doing enough (too much)?
•Can I physically handle this?
•How will I ever learn all of the care tasks?
•Am I neglecting others in my family?
•Will I be able to take care of myself too?

This last question is very important; if you do not take care of yourself, you will not be able to care for someone else. Meeting your needs and the needs of another person is tricky. When the balance tips and your stress is too much, there can be negative effects. Many times, caregivers wait too long before admitting their own exhaustion. Ongoing caregiver stress can lead to irritability, and even abuse or neglect of your family member. It is important to watch for these signs early on and address them before the situation worsens.

Signs of caregiver stress:
•Changes in sleep or eating patterns
•Being moody and irritable
•Using medicines or alcohol to ”relax”
•New or recurring medical problems
•Chronic fatigue
•Rough handling of the person with the disability

Tips for coping
There are no easy answers, but sometimes even these small things can help:
•Ask others for help. Look beyond those old beliefs that asking for a favor is a sign of weakness or that others should know when and how to help.
•Communicate openly and clearly with the person being cared for. Remember that person with a disability has a right to make decisions and do things, as their health situation permits.
•Accept that sometimes your own needs come first. You can provide care only as well as you care for yourself.
•Plan time to rest, relax, have fun and exercise. Time away doing something different is important to your personal well being. This could happen regularly in small ways, like a phone call to a friend, a relaxing bath, or a walk outdoors; and sometimes in a more special way, like a night out with friends, or even a vacation where someone else takes over caregiving tasks.
•Allow yourself to say “no” when necessary. Only so much can be done in a 24–hour day. Recognizing and setting limits can strengthen your spirit and inspire you to move forward.
•Give yourself credit and a pat on the back, regularly.
•Look for sources of support such as someone to help you get out for a while, someone to help at home, or someone to just listen. You may find comfort from a clergyman, friends, or a support group for caregivers. You are not alone.

You will often feel as if you are not doing a good job of taking care of your loved one when you do something to take care of yourself. Following these new suggestions will be difficult. Just like caring for your family member takes work, caring for yourself takes work too.


This content is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the advice of a physician or other health care professional. Reliance on this site's content is solely at your own risk. Shirley Ryan AbilityLab disclaims any liability for injury or damages resulting from the use of any site content. ©Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (formerly Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago). Henry B. Betts LIFE Center – (312) 238-5433 –


Publication Information


Caregiver Stress Management


Elizabeth Wojciechowski, RN, PhD

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