Caregiver Stress and Memory

                                           “Memory Matters” for ALL Ages  LINK TO PROGRAM

Caregivers often find themselves so busy meeting the needs of others that they are no longer taking care of themselves like they should. With this may come additional stress as some caregivers become concerned when they feel that their memory is not as good as it used to be.  Certainly the situation could be that an older caregiver is just experiencing  some  of the changes in memory with normal aging while a younger person may be worried about what is happening.

As a speech-language pathologist providing services in the home, this is something I see all the time. It is not unusual for the caregiver to feel overwhelmed with all the changes in routine,  new people now involved and the new information to process especially when a loved one is just coming home from the hospital or rehab.

Something to think about:
1. When you are stressed, hormones are released which can impact your ability to remember. If there is some depression regarding the situation or worry, that is a distraction which definitely can add to the caregiver’s ability to recall details.

2. It is important to figure out what you can change, and what you cannot.  Information overload is challenging. With all the communication, doctor appointments and instructions to follow, a system of keeping things organized may need some revision to better cope. In some cases, it may be helpful to have someone else handling those details but the key for many is written information in one place.

3. While many caregivers find it difficult to accept help, it is important to remember that it does not make you a better caregiver to do it all. Many times the caregiving situation is long term and offers for help are not accepted initially and then, after some time, caring friends and family members may stop offering.

Tips to consider:

1. You need to create a plan to reduce some stress which might include humor and meditation which can help to disperse some of those stress hormones. Meditation can be something that relaxes you and stops the chatters in your head. It could be as simple as reading, listening to music or working in the garden, even for a periodic mini break. Research shows many benefits to laughter so find what tickles your funny bone and make some time to unplug for a few minutes and lighten up rather than let the tension build up throughout the day.

2. Start by eating breakfast and that means a healthy one. Do not skip meals and if you have trouble finding time, consider taking one of the nutritional supplements available. Also exercise routines are often disturbed and they are essential to reducing stress.

3.  Generally people are calling or dropping by with food or just to visit. Setting boundaries will reduce some of the distractions. That does not mean you are ungrateful but letting people know you need to stay focused on some of the caregiving tasks especially in more complicated situations is a good starting place. Encourage people making arrangements ahead of time so that they can maximize their visit time.

Look back to a time when you were stressed. Did sleep, exercise and a balanced lifestyle become less of a priority? Think through what you might do in the future now that you are more aware of what matters so you can function better with your memory under stress. Then apply that information when you are on the outside looking in with a friend or family member and maybe see a way you can help.

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.” Mother Teresa

Link to “Memory Matters” for ALL Ages  cable television show: Caregiver Stress and Memory  and   Memory Fitness products by Kathryn Kilpatrick


About Kathryn Kilpatrick

Kathryn Kilpatrick received her Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology in 1968 from the University of Massachusetts. She has worked in a variety of settings, primarily in Ohio, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and for decades in the area of home health care. Kathryn is president of Memory Fitness Matters ( and Communication Connection( She offers memory coaching for all ages and has a geriatric consulting practice. She is a national motivational speaker and author of more than 30 products to enhance communication and connection as well as a Memory Fitness Toolkit. Kathryn brings her decades of experience as a speech-language pathologist to all those wanting to enhance their quality of life, particularly when there are communication, memory and cognitive challenges. Her websites offer information on a wide variety of topics related to elder care concerns as well as memory fitness and successful aging.
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