Caregiver stress can be dangerous, even deadly.  If you are feeling caregiver stress your health and the health of those you care for may be at risk.

My friend Mindy found out just how serious caregiver stress can be.  It can affect your health, your life and even the things like knitting you enjoy and do to relieve stress.

When Mindy’s parents were no longer able to care for themselves, she moved them into the house next door.  She remodeled it and took over their care, including hiring caregivers.

She supervised the caregivers, soon finding herself doing more and more.  In addition to supervising their care and becoming the “back up caregiver,” she kept up on her parents’ finances and medical care.

It affected her work.  Which led to a decrease in her income.  The financial, social, physical and emotional stresses continued to increase.

She found herself exhausted, lonely and depressed.  She could not take a vacation due to her responsibilities and finances.  Her social life evaporated.  Why she even stopped knitting and crocheting!

Then one day she woke up in the hospital’s Coronary Care Unit.  She had collapsed at home from a massive heart attack!

Thankfully not all caregivers have this reaction to stress.  Women are at higher risk.  About 75% of caregivers who feel emotional, physical or financial strains are women.

How can caregiver stress affect my health?  Research shows caregivers compared to non-caregivers are more likely to have –

  • Depression or anxiety symptoms
  • Higher levels of stress hormones
  • A long-term medical problem, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or arthritis
  • Slower recovery from infections or wounds
  • Obesity

And research suggests caregivers may also be at higher risk for mental problems, including memory problems and difficulty in paying attention.

How Can Caregiver Stress Affect My Health?

Wondering how stress can do all this?

High levels of stress hormones can be toxic to your body.

Hey, they are great for emergency situations.  Like when you brake suddenly in your car to avoid an accident.

Long term though they can affect your body in unhealthy ways, leading to other problems.  And caregivers are not immune to the serious damage stress hormones can produce. 

If you get sick, who will take care of your care recipients?

Before you develop problems, you should seek help from your physician, minister, counselor, or other professional.

What can you do now to prevent caregiver stress and overwhelm?

Possible solutions include –

  • Give yourself a break.  Schedule regular breaks to get away from the daily demands of giving care.  Accept that you are human and need breaks, just like everyone else.
  • Care for yourself.  No one else will put you first, so you need to.  This includes your health checkups and reducing stress whenever possible.
  • Ask for help.  You may be surprised how many people want to help but thought you didn’t need it! 
  • Find support.  Whether you find support in a support group locally or online or your church or friends and family is as individual as you are!  Just be sure you get the support you need.
  • Accept limitations.  Accept your limitations of what you can do physically, emotionally and financially.  And accept there are limits on what you can expect from your care recipient.  Chronic progressive diseases get worse with time, not better.  You may need to find new ways to communicate or do things. 

Caregiver stress is real.  Unchecked, it can lead to other problems, including health problems.

I’ve seen it in friends like Mindy and in colleagues.  And more than that, I experienced caregiver stress both as a physician and as a family caregiver.

“A HEART PLAN” helps caregivers more than survive — to thrive in caregiving!  Including ways to reduce your caregiver stress. 

For a FREE downloadable copy of “A HEART PLAN” leave a comment on the original blog post on The Knitting Yarn.  If you are reading this on a site other than The Knitting Yarn, click here now to go to the original post to leave your comment and get your free download!

And starting now, Choose Life, Love and Laughter!

To your healthy and happy knitting & caregiving,

Dr. InaThe Knitting Dr Logo
Ina Gilmore, M.D. (Retired)
“The Knitting Dr.”

Founder, and
Ambassador of Elder Care at



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