How can being a caregiver affect my emotional health?

Goldina Erowele

Caregiving can be rewarding and yet overwhelming. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, the psychological health of the family caregiver is negatively affected by providing care. Higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health effects are common among family members who care for an older relative or friend. Caregivers show higher levels of depression.

  • Estimates show that between 40 to 70% of caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression, with approximately one quarter to one half of these caregivers meeting the diagnostic criteria for major depression.
  • Both caregiver depression and perceived burden increase as the care receiver's functional status declines.
  • Studies show that 30 to 40% of dementia caregivers suffer from depression and emotional stress.
  • Depression and anxiety disorders found in caregivers persist and can even worsen after the placement of the patient in a nursing home.
  • Depressed caregivers are more likely to have coexisting anxiety disorders, substance abuse or dependence, and chronic disease.
  • Depression is also one of the most common conditions associated with suicide attempts.

Caregivers suffer from high levels of stress and frustration.

  • Caregivers have higher levels of stress than noncaregivers. They also describe feeling frustrated, angry, drained, guilty or helpless as a result of providing care.
  • Caregiving can also result in feeling a loss of self-identity, lower levels of self-esteem, constant worry, or feelings of uncertainty.
  • More than one-fifth (22%) of caregivers are exhausted when they go to bed at night, and many feel they cannot handle all their caregiving responsibilities.
  • Caregivers who experience chronic stress may be at greater risk for cognitive decline including loss in short-term memory, attention and verbal IQ.
Caregiving can take a tremendous toll on your emotional as well as physical health. Stress, depression and anxiety are very common among caregivers. Watching a loved one struggle, and for many, caring for them without enough resources, especially emotional and financial support, is directly related to the caregiver's health, both emotionally and physically. Worldwide, caregivers are impacted by the daily care that they provide. Some examples from research include:
  • An Italian study reported that caregivers' quality of life is directly related to the severity of behavioral disorders and duration of Alzheimer's disease. The increase in anxiety and depression is directly proportional to the severity of the illness, affecting the patients.
  • A Norwegian study of caregivers of patients with MS experienced high levels of distress and reduced quality of life related to caregiving.
  • A Kuwaiti study found that caregiver quality of life was more affected by their fear of having MS than their feelings about the illness and caregiving role.
  • A London study found that 23.5% of caregivers had anxiety and 10.5% had depression.
The emotional impact of caregiving is well-documented, worldwide. Women, minority, and low-income caregivers can be especially affected by the demands of caregiving.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.