Caregiver Stress

Managing Caregiver Stress
By Erin Battagler, RN, Freeman Health System

Whether you became a caregiver gradually or suddenly, you may feel unprepared, alone, and overwhelmed by all of the responsibilities of caregiving. You may even have feelings of sadness, fear, anxiety, guilt, and anger. These are all normal feelings caregivers have from time to time, but it is important to be able to recognize when these feelings are not going away and it is becoming unhealthy for the caregiver. Caregiver burnout, a progression of caregiver stress, reaches a critical point when the caregiver no longer can effectively take care of his or her loved one. To prevent caregiver burnout, know the warning signs:


  • Change in sleep patterns or sleeplessness
  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, or crying often
  • Change in appetite, weight loss, or weight gain
  • Fatigue, lack of energy, constant feeling of exhaustion
  • Overreacting to minor issues
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities or hobbies
  • Withdrawal from social activities or family
  • Blaming yourself when unrealistic demands are not met
  • Feeling out of control of the situation
  • Increase in illness, use of medications for anxiety, depression, sleep, or stomach problems
  • Inability to relax, feeling like there is always more that you need to be doing
  • Frequent mood swings

To be the best caregiver you can, take great care of yourself. It is an important part of your job! A healthy caregiver is better equipped to appropriately respond to the needs of the care recipient. When your needs are met, the person you are caring for will benefit too. Tips for healthy living include:

  • Learn and use stress-reduction techniques
  • Attend to your own healthcare needs
  • Get proper rest and nutrition
  • Exercise regularly
  • Take time off without feeling guilty
  • Participate in pleasant, nurturing activities
  • Seek and accept the support of others
  • Seek supportive counseling when you need it, or talk to a trusted counselor or friend
  • Identify and acknowledge your feelings
  • Change the negative ways you view situations
  • Set realistic goals and expectations
  • Journal your thoughts and feelings
  • Learn to use stress management techniques and coping mechanisms, such as deep breathing or guided imagery
  • Don’t rely on medications, drugs, or alcohol to reduce your stress

If you are experiencing caregiver stress, know that you are not alone. Many options exist to help relieve some of this stress. Many agencies in the Joplin area can assist you with respite and in-home care for your loved one. Medicaid allows for 3 or 4 days of respite care every 90 days. Contact the local Area Agency on Aging for a list of rehabilitation centers in the area that provide respite care. You can also find organizations that assist with activities of daily living such as bathing, preparing meals, grocery shopping, and housekeeping. Your physician or healthcare provider can help you track your stress and take preventive steps to manage the stress to keep it from negatively impacting your health.

Organizations that specialize in services for the elderly and their caregivers:

Area Agency on Aging
531 East 15th Street
Joplin, Missouri 64804
Homemaker services, home-sharing, referral for legal services, information, and referral.

Arthritis Association
819 East 9th Street
Joplin, Missouri 64801
Support groups, classes, equipment rental, and sale of adult diapers and blue underpads at reduced cost.

CLAIM State Health Insurance Assistance Program
Free service to assist with Medicare questions and claims. Volunteers assist with questions about Medicare supplement policies, Medicare appeals process, and Medicare regulations and paperwork.

Department of Health and Senior Services-Jasper County
1110 East 7th Street
Joplin, Missouri 64801
In-home personal care services, investigation of elder abuse and neglect.

Freeman Health System
Patient Care Coordination/Social Services Department
1102 West 32nd Street
Joplin, Missouri 64804
Provides discharge planning services to patients and families; resource information about nursing and boarding homes, in-home services, financial assistance, community agencies, and counseling.

Freeman Home Care
Home health services
Physician order required

Homebound Services
St. Paul’s United Methodist Church
2423 West 26th Street
Joplin, Missouri 64804
Provides services to Joplin residents ages 60 and older or disabled, limited to those with no family available. Services include medical transportation, grocery shopping, and light safety repair.

Joplin Family Worship Center
5290 East 7th Street 
Joplin, Missouri 64801
Provides $30 toward the purchase of a window air conditioner for people that have a medical need for air conditioning.

Legal Aid of Western Missouri
302 South Joplin Avenue
Joplin, Missouri 64801
Legal representation and counseling is provided without charge, on a donation basis to persons over 60.

Older Adults Transportation Services
800.770.6287 (general inquiries)
417.659.8556 (to schedule a ride)
Transportation for shopping and doctor appointments.

Ozark Center
Comprehensive behavioral health services
1105 E. 32nd Street
Joplin, Missouri 64804

Freeman Aftercare Support Group
Meets at 6 pm on the 2nd Tuesday of each month.
Freeman Hospital East Chapel
932 East 34th Street
Joplin, Missouri 64804

Freeman Alzheimer’s Support Group
Meets at 6 pm on the 2nd Tuesday of each month.
Freeman East Conference Room 4E
932 East 34th Street
Joplin, Missouri 64804

Freeman Cancer Support Group
Meets at 2 pm on the 2nd Wednesday of each month
Freeman Cancer Institute downstairs conference room
3414 McIntosh Circle Drive
Joplin, Missouri 64804

Freeman Stroke Support Group
Meets at 3 pm on the 3rd Thursday of the month
College View Manor
3828 College View Drive
Joplin, Missouri 64801