Ten warning signs of Alzheimer’s caregiver stress


By Jim Herlihy | Alzheimer’s Association

Denial. Anger. Depression. For the 11.5 million people in the U.S. who provide unpaid care for a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease, there’s an excellent chance that you are experiencing at least one of these or other side effects related to your efforts. 

These volunteer caregivers, including 160,000 Coloradans, who typically provide 30 hours per week of unpaid care, are prone to developing health issues of their own ranging from physical deterioration to thoughts of suicide.

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness and National Caregiver Month, and it is because of the combination of physical, emotional and psychological challenges that unpaid family caregivers face that the Alzheimer’s Association wants to draw attention to the sacrifices they make to care for loved ones.

“Studies have shown that dementia caregivers are 41 percent more likely to become increasingly frail during their time as caregivers,” said Jeff Bird, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado. “And, tragically, 32 percent of dementia caregivers with a mean age of 64 think about or make plans for suicide versus 2.7 percent of U.S. adults age 56 and over.”

To help these overworked caregivers recognize the potential challenges to their own health, the Alzheimer’s Association has developed a list of 10 symptoms of caregiver stress.

“Seeing any of these symptoms on a regular basis should serve as a signal that the caregiver should consult with his or her family physician,” Bird said.

The 10 symptoms of caregiver stress are:

1. Denial about the disease and its effect on the person who has been diagnosed. (I know Mom is going to get better.)

2. Anger at the person with Alzheimer’s or frustration that he or she can’t do the things they used to be able to do. (He knows how to get dressed — he’s just being stubborn.)

3. Social withdrawal from friends and activities that used to make you feel good. (I don’t care about visiting with the neighbors anymore.)

4. Anxiety about the future and facing another day. (What happens when he needs more care than I can provide?)

5. Depression that breaks your spirit and affects your ability to cope. (I just don’t care anymore.)

6. Exhaustion that makes it nearly impossible to complete necessary daily tasks. (I’m too tired for this.)

7. Sleeplessness caused by a never-ending list of concerns. (What if she wanders out of the house or falls and hurts herself?)

8. Irritability that leads to moodiness and triggers negative responses and actions. (Leave me alone.)

9. Lack of concentration that makes it difficult to perform familiar tasks. (I was so busy, I forgot my appointment.)

10. Health problems that begin to take a mental and physical toll. (I can’t remember the last time I felt good.)

The Alzheimer’s Association provides a broad range of information, programs and services at no charge. To learn more, call the Association’s free Helpline, staffed 24/7 by trained professionals, at (800) 272-3900.