I am worried about my mom who has been caring for my dad who has Alzheimer’s for a couple of years. What are some signs of caregiver stress or burnout?

If you pointed out to your mom that you feel she is overwhelmingly stressed or suffering from caregiver burnout, she would most likely deny it, which is one of the top symptoms of caregiver stress. She may still feel that your dad is going to get better, and just striving for that can cause undue personal stress.

Caring for your dad may have caused her to withdraw socially. She may spend so much time caring for him that she has little time to do the things she once enjoyed doing. She most likely doesn’t get the chance to visit friends or go on outings, and this isolation can cause stress as well as depression.

You might witness irritability or agitation in your mom. She may have expressions of anger, whether it is losing her patience with your dad, showing frustration about the lack of a successful treatment for him, or just feeling that no one understands her journey. Additionally, she might experience difficulty sleeping, even though she is obviously exhausted.

Watch for health issues to sprout over the course of her caregiving of your dad. Besides depression, your mom may experience physical factors that can surface and require attention from a physician. She may have excessive headaches, gastrointestinal issues or back and joint pain, which can all be stress-related.

You should encourage your mother to take a break from caregiving, possibly enrolling in a respite care program. Getting back to things she once enjoyed is therapeutic, too, and exercising regularly is a must for overall good mental and physical health. Recognizing the stressors and learning to manage them are keys to lending balance in the unpredictable world of Alzheimer’s caregiving.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.