Alzheimer's Disease: Coping With Caregiver Stress and Burnout

If you're a caregiver for your parent with Alzheimer's and you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, consider these tips for coping with caregiver stress and burnout:

  • Learn as much as you can about Alzheimer's disease. Although you might not want to think about it, you'll thank yourself later because you'll be ready to handle the many caregiving challenges associated with the disease.
  • Take an active role in your parent's health care. Form a caregiving alliance with professionals experienced in issues related to Alzheimer's disease.
  • Keep lines of communication open with family and friends. Tell them how you are coping as a caregiver. Your loved ones often want to know what they can do to help you as a caregiver, but they may feel uncomfortable asking, or they don't know what to say.
  • Adjust your expectations by imagining what your parent is experiencing. Caregiving is a meditation on patience and understanding.
  • Mind your own physical and mental health. Make time for sleep, exercise, proper nutrition, socializing, and time alone. You may have to ask for help, which is not always easy for caregivers to do, but helping yourself will ultimately help your parent.
  • Watch for signs of caregiver burnout, which can include irritability, anger, anxiety, depression, sleeping problems, withdrawal from social activities, and denial about your parent's diagnosis or your caregiving responsibilities. You might also experience fatigue and health problems like ulcers, migraines, high blood pressure, or frequent colds and other illnesses.
  • Join a caregiver support group for education, support, and connections to local services that can help you with your caregiving tasks. Check the paper for a list of local groups or contact your nearest Alzheimer's Association for information about groups near you.
  • If you're having difficulty coping, consider seeing a mental health professional who has expertise in Alzheimer's and treating issues like caregiver burnout, depression, and grief.

Have you found other ways to handle caregiver stress and burnout? If so, what tips do you have for other caregivers? Post a comment to this blog, and be sure to sign up for our email list to receive regular updates about new eldercare topics posted on

--Carrie L. Hill, Ph.D

6 Responses

  1. I have expressed the following thoughts before on several blogs. However, I believe they are worth repeating. Caregiver burnout is a major issue for those with this awesome responsibility. Don't overlook the role of humor to make things more bearable. Things that made me angry and frustrated when my mother (who had dementia)was alive, in retrospect are filled with funny happenings. This is true too for the many caregivers who read my blog and contact me about my book which emphasizes humor as a healing balm. Caregivers need all the emotional support they can get. Dementia is a disease that knows no boundaries. It is blind to the categories in which we usually place our fellow human beings. It can occur at the age of 55 or 85. It can happen to Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Christians, Muslims, males and females, rich and poor. It will not spare ex-presidents or ex-prime ministers. It did not spare my mother. Tears are shed by husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters—in fact anyone responsible for the care of a loved one with dementia. Bob Tell, Author Dementia Diary, A Caregiver's Journal
  2. [...] Alzheimer’s Disease: Coping With Caregiver Stress and Burnout [...]
  3. [...] Why Do Caregivers Burnout? caregiver stress, caring for elderly Add comments Caregiver burn out can be a big danger to not only the caregiver, but those they are providing care for.    To offer the best care possible, the caregiver needs to care for themselves  and be aware if they are entering burn-out. If they don’t see it, they should be  willing to listen when others notice they are.    It is vital to know the signs  of caregiver burnout. [...]
  4. As a caregiver, I am well acquainted with all things related to Alzheimers. However, my problem is that nobody else understands. I am caring for my 81 year old husband full time while working full time from home. I recently tried to get some help from family, friends and church members like all good books on caregiving tell you to answers? Family- no i want to take him walking around the mall. I don't want to tell him that he can't have whatever he wants no matter what it is". Friends-"So you are going to ditch your husband and you want me to come over and babysit, is that it?" Church-"You have no business asking for help from the church for your husband because he isn't a member, though you are-it is a bit of a stretch." Nowhere is any of the books does it tell you what to do in these instances. so i continue to go it alone 24/7 with no breaks. He either goes with me or i have to run out while he is asleep. i cannot afford to pay for anyone to help me which also prompted the response- why would you be so irresponsible to go on VACATION when you can't afford it? I have heard it all and it isn't helping me one bit and in fact is making me more isolated. i spend so much energy just trying to validate that i need a break, it just is no longer worth the effort. I just hope someone says something nice about me at my funeral.
  5. Your Message<a class="replyTo" href="#comment-1130" rel="nofollow">@Devoted Alzwife in Socal:</a> Dear Alzwife, I am sorry to hear that everyone near and dear to you has said no to your requests for help. You mentioned many people, but I did not see you mention your local aging agency? Some might be very affordable. Here's a link for finding resources nearby- You might also try <a href="" rel="nofollow">volunteer match</a>-- I've recommended them for years to people looking to volunteer, perhaps you could find someone reliable who would give you a hand. Please don't give up--- sometimes the solution is right on the next corner and if you quit you might miss it. Mary
  6. Your Message<a href="#comment-1130" rel="nofollow">@Devoted Alzwife in Socal:</a> <a href="#comment-1130" rel="nofollow">@Devoted Alzwife in Socal:</a> Alzwife, I know how U feel. I have already burned out. I can't leave him and I am dying. I feel like I have alz. I can't think, sleep, eat, and I cry at the drop of a hat and I feel anger and frustration and I am scared. I can still function in that I so far can still balance my bank statements and still do taxes but with everything breaking down and I have no support, I am frustrated. He has always been the boss and I find myself letting him beat me down. He has loaded guns, which I hid, but he found and put 2 under the bed. I sent them off with my daughter and he hasn't noticed they are missing, but when he does, I am afraid he will find the others that I had hidden, but he had apparently found and hid them from me. I can not do this any longer, but yet they tell me I can't let him out of my sight and I can't get away. He will not go in a nursing facility and they say they can't violate his rights by sending him. What do we do? We are prisoners and no one cares that I think I am going crazy. I have absolutely lost it. They have Home Health coming out, but they are no help and he is demanding that I stop them from coming out. He harps on me continually. It is like 49 years of my life has been wasted, because he does not love me and I do all the work even to mowing pastures, yard, feeding cattle in the winter time, doing housework, preparing his meals and cleaning up his messes, because he is incontinent. I am eliminating some of my problems as I sold most of the cattle and will sell the others before winter. I am 81 and he is 79, but he was always so smart and handled everything and I always kept peace in the family by just doing what he said do. Now he is still trying to tell me what to do and continually follows me around like he thinks I am plotting against him or something. The rest of the time, he just lies in bed. I can't stand his suspicions. I wish I knew what to tell you about coping, but I can't cope myself and yes, I have become isolated. I have one daughter, but she is not in good health and she lives too far away. I have been dealing with this since before he had his first stroke in 2001. In 2006, he was in the hospital continually. He had a 4 way bypass, new heart valve, pacemaker, maize procedure due to his faulty electrical system. Then 3 months later he was in a barn explosion and was thrown clear across the room and burned his face and hands and became still and would not move. I had to go in a smoke filled room with little pieces of fire burning in the air and barely got him out and got 911 called when the fire got so big that it burned the telephone in the barn and cut me off at the house. His recuperation was difficult for both of us. I had to change his bandages and wash his hands every 12 hours and even had to feed him, wipe him, bathe him etc. He shows no appreciation or love. It is like he hates and resents me. My daddy died of lung cancer and I thought that was bad, but it was like a walk in the park compared to alz. At least, I knew my daddy loved and appreciated me and he died loving me. Alz is terrible and I have insurance for myself and I feel like I have it and I have told my daughter if I do get it and become selfish, just to please put me in a home and not ruin her life. Tell me if you feel like you have alz? I am so mixed up. I can't sleep. I got only about 3 hours last night and my mind never gets rested and I never stop worrying. If only I could just get away for an hour without him, would help me. I hate Alz. It is the worst disease in the world and robs everyone. I feel sorry for him, but at the same time, I hate how self centered he has become and how it is all about him and he cares nothing for anyone else. Enough said. Let me know how to cope and what to do since I know I have already burned out. How do I recover????How do I help him when I am a total wreck? I know how alone, helpless and depressed you must feel. Believe me, I am the same way. At the same time I feel resentment, anger, sympathy and all ranges of emotions.
  7. Your Message<a class="replyTo" href="#comment-1135" rel="nofollow">@Another alzwife:</a> Dear Alzwife, I am so sorry that you are feeling trapped in your situation. First, we are not doctors nor medical professionals here. We can certainly share experiences and ideas, but we could not possibly diagnose you or anyone else. We can listen and hopefully encourage you to find some resources and move beyond the place you are at. Do you have a family doctor? I would get in as soon as possible and tell him/her all your symptoms and take his/her advice! Please do so for your own sake and your husbands. You might also see if your insurance would allow you to talk to a geriatric care manager and see if they have any ideas or resources to help you. In the meantime, here are some links that might be of help: Have you talked to others who are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's? Here is a site that will help you find your local association: Here is some information on coping: Please do SOMETHING-- you are putting your husband and yourself at risk by not acting. Hugs to you.
  8. [...] Alzheimer’s Disease: Coping With Caregiver Stress and Burnout … [...]
  9. Ann
    I am so sorry you have this burden. I wish I was in a position to offer more help. I am slowly losing compassion, and feeling anger and frustration. I;m not sure why. I have never been lacking patience or compassion, and I am now. I want to die many mornings and evenings because I dread the time ahead having no schedule of my own, to speak of. Thank you for your listening ear. I want to help you; what shall we do? class="replyTo" href="#comment-1135">@Another alzwife: