Along with being Alzheimer’s awareness month, November is also National Family Caregivers month, which makes it a good time to discuss potential health hazards to those doing the caring.

“Caregiver burden is a significant one, and we all want to take care of our loved ones. I think most men and women who have been married to each other for an extended period of time feel that this is part of their responsibility, says Diane Walker, R.N.,  vice president at Griswold Special Care and editor for Caring Times

And, as we all know, today’s baby boomers aren’t just taking care of spouses, many are also taking care of mom and dad.

“This is somewhat typical of our [baby boomer] generation, it may not be as true for younger generations who do not feel the obligation to take care of their parents or older adults, but we grew up with that expectation,” says Walker.

In the United States, it is estimated that 50 million people per year are actively involved in caregiving; assuming the roles of service provider, companion, advocate, and decision-maker, according to a study by Griswold Special Care. 

And according to the 2010 Alzheimer’s Association Report, almost 11 million Americans provide unpaid care –approximately 12.5 billion hours of care valued at $144 billion -- for a person with Alzheimer’s disease.

So, what are some of the red flags that signal you or a loved one may be suffering from caregiver burden?

“Emotional cues include feelings of anger, sadness, frustration, or irritability,” according to Elizabeth Gonzalez, Ph.D. R.N., C.S., and associate professor at the School of Nursing at Drexel University.

What care can help a burdened caregiver?

“[Either] in-home services that will directly provide the recipient with assistance and give the caregiver respite to attend to her/his own needs … [or] learning more about the disease process, the family member’s level of dependency, and appropriate levels of support,” Gonzalez advises.