"Caregiver syndrome" -do you have it and, if so, what can you do to help yourself?

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In the pamphlet, "Caring for Persons with Dementia," Dr. Jean Posner, a neuropsychiatrist in Baltimore, Maryland, referred to caregiver syndrome as, "a debilitating condition brought on by unrelieved, constant caring for a person with a chronic illness or dementia."

70% of All Caregivers Over the Age of 70 Die First. Is Caregiver Syndrome a REAL Medical Diagnosis? - title of the article on the brmmlaw. site.

Peter Vitaliano, a professor of geriatric psychiatry at the University of Washington and an expert on caregiving, said that the chronic stress of caring for someone can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes and a compromised immune system. In severe cases, caregivers can take on the symptoms of the person that they care for, he said. For example, a person caring for someone with dementia may develop progressive memory loss. Worse still, this syndrome can lead to death.

Elderly caregivers are at a 63 percent higher risk of mortality than noncaregivers in the same age group, according to a study by University of Pittsburgh researchers Richard Schulz and Scott Beach reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in December 1999. That study refers to spousal caregivers.


The above are quotes from the internet - an article for CNN by Andree LeRoy, M.D

I know as a distance care giver for my mother who has life long mental illness as well as vascular dementia now, I have some of that syndrome. She is now 104 and I am 79 and there is no end in sight as her heart, lungs, kidneys and liver are all in very good condition.

How can you look after you, as well as the person you care for?


Thanks for that information. It's quite alarming. I do believe it. The stress, pain and frustration that I see from caregivers on websites is SHOCKING. It's really sad too. I don't think most people know they have this syndrome.

I'm sorry to hear what you are going through. My goodness, your mother is over 100 years old. How long has she had Vascular Dementia? My LO has that too.
Hi sunny - Mother first started showing signs of vascular dementia after age 100. Now she is medicated and well looked after in an ALF/continuing care facility so my stress has decreased significantly. At her age and with VaD it could be expected that she won't last too many more years, but at my age, each year is precious.
Thank you Golden for sharing this information. I think its critical for caregivers to access the right resources and supports. I know us women want to be the heroes and super multi taskers but sometimes its just too much. I hate to see so many innocent caregivers succumb to anger, frustration, resentment, burnout and worst of all according to this article death themselves. I hope we can all find a better balance.
I've read that Vascular dementia has a life expectancy of around 4 years, but, it can vary. My LO was diagnosed about 3 years ago. Her condition seems to fluctuate, but, vitals are good. I think the not knowing what to expect is quite stressful.

I know that before my LO went into AL, then MC, my entire body was in a state of panic. I was worried, tense, scared and just confused as to what was happening to her. I ended up with some health issues that took me a year to get over. I didn't know the first thing about dementia. I had to learn fast in order to get her help.

I think that what I see with so many caregivers who have this syndrome is a certain sense of denial. They just think that if they do the right thing, things will get better, work out, bring peace and calm. I suspect our brains convince us to keep having faith that this will happen, but, it may prevent us from facing reality.

I also see a lot of resentment. I'd be concerned to be a caregiver for someone that I really disliked. I find it concerning.
cdn - and there needs to be more resources. I hate seeing what happens to care givers too.

sunny - it can be longer than 4 years from diagnosis. Mother does not have any of the comorbidities you might expect in someone her age, so she is likely to last longer. Not knowing is stressful. I want to sell my house and move south where the winters less severe, but dare not start this process for fear of having to plan a funeral in the middle of it. I am glad you got over your stress. I think it will take me longer than a year.
golden23, thanks for posting that very interesting article.

I know when my parents were in their 90's, I read everything I could get my hands on about dementia, knowing that could happen to my parents, and eventually it did. And before I knew it, I felt like I was developing dementia because I was over reacting to my own forgetfulness. I had always pride myself on have a sharp memory, so this was becoming very scary to me.

I was in my mid to late 60's when I was doing logistical caregiving. I kept telling my parents I didn't have the energy for this, but that fell on deaf ears [pun intended] . To my parents, I was still their "child" and they thought I had the ability of a 30 years old. NOT.

Yes, lots of resentment, as my folks had 25+ years of a full filled retirement with traveling, etc. and I never got to even start retirement now that I am in my early 70's. Threw out my bucket list. My parents never took care of their own parents, so they had zero idea what they were putting me through :(
I don't know if people get beyond the stress very easily, either. I was talking to a woman who is about 80 years old today. She took care of her mother with Alzheimer's for 9 years. It was a very tough situation, similar to some of the situations we see here on the group. As she talked about some of the things, she seemed to be reliving the stress of it all like it was happening at the moment. It was years ago. Her mother was a shadower who wouldn't let the daughter out of her sight. I asked her how she kept her sanity, and she answered that she wasn't sure that she had. She said that she was glad she had done it, but she would never want to ever do that again. Talking to her was like looking into my own future. It was refreshing to hear such honesty presented in a positive way. But it was also like she still had caregiver syndrome that was evident as she relived the hardships.
ff - unfortunately they see/saw us as their servants and have no thought as to the cost to us. This was not my retirement plan either though I have managed to get in a little travelling and hope to do more before i retire my passport. Too bad yours didn't hire a care manager.

jessie - I think we develop a type of PTSD and personally, I know it will not be behind me in a year, but will be with me in some form probably for life, Of course, it is mixed in with a life of mother's mental illness which makes a difference. I am glad you were able to connect with someone who has gone through it - good for her and for you. I like her honesty too.
I know we develop a type of PTSD. When I started the last job, I was forgetting a lot, not sleeping well, just did not want to do much, just recover from the previous four years.

Golden, if you feel you can't do this any more. Get mom an accountant to take care of the financial part. A Geriatric care manager would help and relieve you of some of the responsibility.
A book keeper would probably be enough and I have thought of that. Hardly need a geriatric care manager, though I could have used one a few years ago. Not much to do now as mother is stable and on comfort care. When the next decline happens I think we will be near the end. The ALF staff can handle most things and will keep her there if at all possible

I think more than anything, glad, I have been overloaded this past year, and often overwhelmed with mother and her demands in the past. I need a vacation - prob a stacation - where I ignore everything for a week, and just do what I want to. Or maybe a trip back to that hotel i was in during the evac. It would be a good place for a week.

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