Caregiver Stress: The Emotional Strain of Providing Care

Caring for a loved one can be a labor of love, but it often carries an emotional weight that can lead to caregiver stress. This stress is commonly underscored by the delicate balance caregivers must maintain between attending to someone else's needs and managing their own well-being.

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Caregiver Stress: The Emotional Strain of Providing Care
8 Min Read November 6th, 2023

The vital role of caregivers in supporting older loved ones who need long-term care often goes unseen by the general public but has a huge impact on America's families and finances. These dedicated individuals make it possible for countless seniors and individuals with chronic or temporary illnesses and disabilities to receive care in the comfort of their homes despite the physical, emotional, and financial hardship it places on them. Their unpaid contributions are substantial, according to the AARP, with an estimated value of $600 billion annually.

A recent AARP report titled 'A Look at U.S. Caregivers' Mental Health' surveyed individuals on the physical and emotional impact of caregiving, stress levels, and coping mechanisms.

The findings indicate that while many caregivers receive sufficient support from friends and family, this does not fully mitigate the stress associated with the duty of caring for a loved one.

Over half of the respondents reported heightened stress, worry about the future, and anxiety due to their caregiving responsibilities. Most caregivers who work full-time are facing mental health struggles, with numerous individuals expressing that burnout hinders their ability to perform their jobs effectively.

A graph explaining how being a caregivers affects individuals.

Strain and Conflict

Providing long-term care services for an older parent can be emotionally and physically draining, especially if there is no Long-Term Care Insurance in place to reduce the burden. When siblings are involved, the situation can become even more challenging since one sibling usually becomes the point person who must do most of the work. This can lead to conflict and resentment among the siblings, as well as feelings of guilt and isolation for the sibling who is providing the care.

Emotional Strain

The emotional strain of providing long-term care can be significant. Caregivers may experience a range of emotions, including:

  • Guilt: Caregivers may feel guilty that they cannot do more for their parent or that they are not living up to their own expectations.
  • Anger: Caregivers may feel angry at their parent for needing their help or at the situation itself.
  • Frustration: Caregiving can be a frustrating and thankless job. Caregivers may feel like they are constantly on call and that they have no breaks.
  • Depression: Caregivers may feel depressed and isolated, especially if they are providing care alone.

Sibling Conflict

When siblings are involved in providing long-term care, there is a risk of conflict. This can be due to several factors, including:

  • Differing opinions on care: Siblings may have different opinions on how to care for their parent, which can lead to disagreements.
  • Unfair division of labor: One sibling may end up doing most of the work, which can lead to resentment.
  • Lack of communication: Siblings may not communicate effectively about their caregiving responsibilities, leading to misunderstandings.

Long-Term Care - A Growing International Problem

Long-term care is a growing issue in the United States and globally. The aging population, medical advances increasing longevity, and the rise of chronic diseases are all driving the need for extended care services, both custodial and skilled. This is having a significant impact on families, finances, and governments worldwide.

Custodial long-term care and skilled long-term care are two types of care services that differ in the level of care provided. Most people require custodial care, although some need both types of services or need skilled services over longer periods of time.

Custodial Long-Term Care provides assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, dressing, eating, and toileting. It is typically provided by non-licensed caregivers, such as home health aides or personal care assistants.

Skilled Long-Term Care provides medical care and rehabilitation services. It is typically provided by licensed healthcare professionals, such as nurses and physical therapists. 

Characteristic Custodial LTC Skilled LTC
Level of care Assistance with ADLs Medical care and rehabilitation services
Caregivers Non-licensed caregivers Licensed health care professionals
Setting Home, assisted living facility, or nursing home Nursing home
Payment Private pay, Medicaid, or Long-Term Care Insurance Medicare, Medicaid, or private pay

Examples of custodial long-term care services include:

  • Help with bathing, dressing, and eating
  • Assistance with toileting and personal hygiene and mobility
  • Supervision and companionship
  • Meal preparation and light housekeeping

Examples of skilled long-term care include:

  • Wound care
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Intravenous therapy
  • Catheter care
  • Pain management
  • Hospice care

Which type of care is needed depends on the individual's needs. Some people may only need custodial care, while others may need skilled care. Some require ongoing care that includes both skilled and custodial care services. 

Traditional health insurance, including Medicare and supplements, will only pay up to 100 days of skilled care services, and they pay nothing toward custodial care. Medicaid will pay for all types of long-term care services, but the care recipient must have little or no income and assets to qualify. LTC Insurance will pay for all types of services, but a policy must be purchased when an individual is younger and healthier. Often, it is when a person is in their 40s through 60s.

The Number of People Who Need Long-Term Care Worldwide

The number of people who need long-term care (LTC) is growing rapidly worldwide due to an aging population, medical advances increasing longevity, and the rise of chronic diseases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the global population aged 60 and over is expected to increase from 1 billion in 2020 to 1.4 billion in 2030 and 2.1 billion in 2050.

  • United States: An estimated 7.3 million people need LTC in the United States, which is expected to increase to 8.9 million by 2030.
  • Canada: An estimated 1.3 million people need LTC in Canada, and this number is expected to increase to 1.9 million by 2036.
  • United Kingdom: An estimated 1.6 million people need LTC in the United Kingdom, and this number is expected to increase to 2.2 million by 2035.
  • European Union: An estimated 21 million people need LTC in the European Union, and this number is expected to increase to 31 million by 2035.
  • Australia: An estimated 1.2 million people need LTC in Australia, and this number is expected to increase to 1.7 million by 2036.
  • New Zealand: An estimated 310,000 people need LTC in New Zealand, which is expected to increase to 460,000 by 2036.

Impact on Families, Finances, and Governments

Long-term care is a financial and emotional burden on families. The cost of care can be high, and families may have to provide care for their loved ones themselves, which can be time-consuming and stressful.

The growing need for long-term care is also having a significant impact on government finances. In many countries, governments are the primary payers of LTC services. This strains government budgets and could lead to cuts in other programs.

Dealing with a Current Family Crisis

As the primary caregiver among siblings, it's critical to maintain open lines of communication regarding your own caregiving needs. Don't hesitate to delegate responsibilities or seek respite to recharge. Recognize that this journey need not be solitary; a wealth of support exists for caregivers, including community programs, online forums, and professional services designed to ease the burdens of caregiving and facilitate collaboration within families.

Family caregivers can take the following steps to ease the burden on the primary sibling and ensure quality care for their older parent:

  • Communicate and coordinate with the primary sibling: Regularly communicate with the primary sibling to discuss the parent's needs, care plan, and progress. This will help to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the parent is receiving the best possible care.
  • Offer to help with specific tasks: Divide up the caregiving responsibilities among the siblings based on each person's availability and skills. This could include tasks such as meal preparation, transportation, medical appointments, and personal care.
  • Provide respite care: Offer to provide respite care for the primary sibling so that they can have a break from caregiving. This could involve taking the parent out for the day, staying with them overnight, or giving the primary sibling a few hours to themselves each week.
  • Be supportive and understanding: Remember that caregiving can be demanding and stressful. Be supportive of the primary sibling and offer them emotional support.
  • Advocate for the parent: If the parent is not receiving the quality of care that they need, be willing to advocate on their behalf. This may involve talking to the parent's healthcare providers, insurance company, or other caregivers.

Here are some additional tips for family caregivers:

  • Take care of yourself: Caregivers need to take care of their own physical and mental health. This includes getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and exercising regularly. It is also essential to schedule time for activities that you enjoy.
  • Seek support: There are a number of resources available to support caregivers. This includes support groups, respite care programs, and online resources.

By following these tips, family caregivers can help ease the burden on the primary sibling and ensure their older parent receives quality care.

Exploring Solutions for Sustained Long-Term Care Support

When navigating long-term care for a loved one without the benefit of Long-Term Care Insurance, it’s crucial to consider all avenues that can alleviate the family caregiver's burden. Respite care emerges as a vital service, offering a temporary reprieve to primary caregivers, which can be arranged either at home or through specialized adult day care facilities. 

If the budget permits, enlisting the aid of professional caregivers for a portion of the care can significantly reduce the stress and physical demands placed on family members.

Moreover, it's important to recognize when transitioning to an assisted living facility might be the more sustainable choice. Assisted living can offer a more comprehensive care arrangement that includes medical support, social activities, and around-the-clock assistance, which not only benefits the care recipient but also provides peace of mind for the family. 

When evaluating assisted living options, it’s beneficial to look for accredited facilities with an excellent staff-to-resident ratio and offer personalized care plans to meet the individual needs of each resident. 

Finding Quality Care Services

The LTC News Caregiver Directory is a comprehensive tool for families searching for the best care solutions. 

This user-friendly directory permits searches filtered by care type, distance, and amenities. Unlike other platforms that might be restricted to specific care providers or require payment for access, LTC News provides a broad tool for finding quality care options wherever your loved one lives.


Care Directory

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  • Find and contact facilities near you
  • Every major care and facility type
  • View facility ratings and amenities
  • Find quality care for you or a loved one

Avoiding Your Future Crisis

As you approach retirement, consider safeguarding your future by integrating Long-Term Care Insurance into your retirement planning. This proactive step can shield you from the potential crisis of long-term care costs, ensuring that your family members can remain your loved ones, not your caregivers. 

By securing an LTC policy, you create a financial safety net that provides tax-free funds designed specifically to cover the costs of care in the environment that you prefer, whether it's in your home, a community setting, or an assisted living facility, in addition to memory care and nursing home care.

Securing Long-Term Care Insurance not only protects your future income and assets from being depleted by care expenses, but it also spares your family the emotional and financial stress of providing for your care. With this coverage in place, you have the freedom to choose the quality of care you deserve, and your family has the precious opportunity to support you without the burden of financial strain. 

Remember, planning early is key—LTC policies are more accessible, and premiums are more affordable when you take action well before retirement or any health issues arise. Most people obtain Long-Term Care Insurance in their 40s or 50s. However, affordable options are available in your 60s and beyond, depending on your health.

It's important to acknowledge the genuine risk of requiring long-term care in the future and the significant financial toll it can take on your savings, as well as the emotional and physical burden it can impose on your family members.

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About the Author

Linda Kople is a freelance writer with a personal family history in long-term care. She specializes in aging-related topics such as caregiving, health, and retirement planning. Her experiences and interests drive her to explore and write about the various aspects of aging and health issues.

LTC News Contributor Linda Kople

Linda Kople

Contributor since October 31st, 2017

Editor's Note

Incorporating Long-Term Care Insurance into your retirement planning is a crucial step towards ensuring a secure future. As you age, the probability of needing some form of long-term care increases, potentially imposing a heavy financial and emotional weight on yourself and your loved ones. Long-Term Care Insurance can mitigate these risks by providing the necessary funds to cover care expenses, which allows for peace of mind knowing that your well-being and wealth are protected, and your family won't be burdened with caregiving duties or financial strain.

Key benefits of Long-Term Care Insurance include:

  • Asset Protection: Shields your retirement savings and other assets from the high costs of care.
  • Choice of Care: Offers the flexibility to choose between in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home facilities.
  • Stress Reduction for Family: Relieves family members from the full-time responsibility of caregiving, reducing emotional and physical stress.
  • Tax Advantages: Provides potential tax deductions on premiums, depending on your tax situation.
  • Inflation Protection: Options that increase your benefit amount over time to keep up with rising costs of care.

Navigating Long-Term Care Insurance with an Expert

When considering Long-Term Care Insurance, it's imperative to work with a qualified independent Long-Term Care Insurance specialist who represents top-rated insurance companies. 

Such specialists possess a wealth of knowledge and experience in the nuances of various policies and can guide you toward a plan that best aligns with your individual needs and financial goals. They offer unbiased advice and can compare different plans from leading insurers, ensuring you receive the most comprehensive coverage at an affordable premium.

Reasons to Choose a Qualified Independent Specialist:

  • Customized Solutions: They provide personalized policy recommendations matching your age, health, and other factors
  • Variety of Options: Offers access to various products from multiple top-rated carriers. Premiums and underwriting between insurance companies vary dramatically.
  • Expert Guidance: Utilizes their expertise to navigate complex policy details, helping you understand the benefits and limitations and designing appropriate plans.
  • Price Comparisons: An LTC Insurance specialist will provide accurate quotes from all the major insurance companies.
  • Ongoing Support: Provides continued assistance with policy reviews and claims, simplifying the process for you and your family.

Find a Qualified, Independent LTC Insurance Specialist

LTC NEWS Resource's Hub Has What You Need

LTC NEWS has numerous tools and resources to guide you through all aspects of long-term care planning. You can access many features, including the innovative Cost of Long-Term Care Calculator, which helps you estimate future long-term care expenses across different settings and regions. 

Here are a few of the resources available on LTC NEWS:

Finding Quality Care for Mom or Dad

LTC NEWS offers help for you and your family in many ways. The LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory is an excellent resource where you can find the most comprehensive directory of all types of long-term care services no matter where your loved one lives - Long-Term Care Services Directory | Find Care Near You.

If your loved one has an LTC Insurance policy, that will open the door to many quality care options, as one of the first questions most home health agencies and long-term care facilities will ask you is if the care recipient has an LTC policy.

Be sure to use the benefits from a loved one's LTC policy; trying to save them for later is not a good approach since access to quality care improves a person's quality of life immediately.

LTC NEWS has combined efforts with Amada Senior Care, a leading in-home health care agency with locations throughout the country, to help you process a claim from any LTC Insurance policy.

There is no cost or obligation for this service - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim

If they don't have an LTC policy, Amada can still help develop a plan of care and provide you with many affordable in-home care options. 

Learn more now - Find Quality In-Home Care.

These four LTC NEWS guides will assist you in trying to find appropriate long-term health care services for a loved one:

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In summary, sponsored content on LTC NEWS is a powerful marketing tool that can help you boost website traffic, SEO, brand recognition, and audience engagement. Traditional advertising is also available to keep you in front of potential customers. 

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