Skip Navigation

Get Support if You Are a Caregiver

older woman with younger woman

The Basics

When you are taking care of a loved one, make time to care for yourself. The emotional and physical stress of caregiving can cause health problems.

What is a caregiver?
A caregiver is someone who helps a family member, friend, or neighbor who is sick or has a disability. An informal or family caregiver often helps a loved one with basic daily tasks.

You may be a caregiver if you regularly help someone with:

  • Grocery shopping
  • Housework
  • Taking medicine
  • Getting dressed
  • Transportation, like car rides to appointments
  • Managing services, like talking to doctors

About 1 in 4 Americans is a caregiver. Most caregivers have other jobs and spend at least 20 hours a week caring for a loved one.

The stress of caregiving can hurt your health.
When you are caring for a loved one, it may be hard to take care of your own health. Caregivers are more at risk for colds and the flu. They are also more likely to have long-term health problems, like arthritis, diabetes, or depression.

Here are some signs you may have caregiver stress:

  • Feeling angry or sad
  • Feeling like it’s more than you can handle
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Having trouble eating or eating too much
  • Losing interest in things you used to enjoy

The good news is that you can lower your risk for health problems if you take care of yourself and get support.

Take Action!

Take these steps to lower the stress of caregiving.

Take care of yourself.
Caregiving can be stressful. Stress can lead to back pain and trouble sleeping. Taking care of yourself will give you the energy and strength to handle the demands of caregiving.

Take care of your body.

  • Eat healthy to keep your body strong and active. Make smart food choices to help protect yourself from heart disease, bone loss, and high blood pressure.
  • Get active to help you make it through the day. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, like walking fast or dancing.
  • Take steps to prevent back pain, like keeping your back straight when you lift something heavy.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep. Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.

Take care of your mental health.

  • Find ways to manage stress. Start by taking a few slow, deep breaths.
  • Do something for yourself. Set aside time each day to do something you enjoy. Try reading, listening to music, or talking to a friend on the phone.
  • Ask a neighbor to visit with your loved one while you take a walk.
  • Get support from others to help you cope with the emotional stress of caregiving.

Find other caregivers to talk to External Links Disclaimer Logo who understand what you are going through.

Ask for help.
You don’t need to do it all yourself. Ask family members, friends, and neighbors to share caregiving tasks.

It’s also a good idea to find out about professional and volunteer services that could help. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed, talk with a doctor about depression.

Learn how to manage stress and get active.

Start Today: Small Steps

Note:  Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat ReaderĀ®.
If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the ReaderĀ®.

You May Also Be Interested In

Content last updated on: September 28, 2012

National Health Information Center

P.O. Box 1133, Washington, DC 20013-1133