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Caregiver Conundrum: Killing Yourself … With Kindness

By Martha Michael

Self Care Can Improve Health

You remember everyone’s birthday. You always volunteer to go last. And when people need a favor, they know they can get it from you.

So you’re a nice guy or gal – what’s wrong with that?

Nothing, except it can kill you.

Life coach Bethany Rosselit cautions us about the results of repeatedly dismissing our own needs for the benefit of others. In an article on, she offers a list of typical outcomes when you constantly subvert your will for the desires of others:

  • Others expect your giving to never end
  • You have unrealistic expectations of others
  • You attract people who drain you more
  • You eventually become needy yourself

While each of those sound like undesirable concepts, the bigger problem comes when you also reap physical health issues you didn’t have before.

Caregiver Burnout

If you are a caregiver for a loved one with a disability or illness, you’re at risk for a decline in health, or in some cases, even death. According to an article in the Huffington Post, Stanford University research says that 40 percent of family caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients die from stress-related disorders before the person in their care does.

The American Journal of Nursing published an article that compares caregiving to a chronic stress experience. Calling it a “major public health issue,” the article says that caregiving often results in psychological distress, impaired health habits and physical illness.

Many experts claim it’s the combination of exhaustion and stress that brings on the health declines associated with caregiving. Luckily, there are signs you can look for that may be depleting your resources for the sake of others and compromising your own health. An article about caregiver burnout on lists the following symptoms:

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Feeling depressed
  • Experiencing changes in appetite
  • Changing sleep patterns
  • Increasing illness

The physical toll for caregiving may include increased rates of headaches, arthritis flare-ups and high levels of body pain, according to Some of these occur because caregivers tend to have a less robust immune system, the site says.


If meeting the needs of those around you causes pain from arthritis flare-ups or you find increasing headaches from the stress and strain of service to others, seek out a chiropractor to address the symptoms. Spinal adjustments can lessen discomfort and boost your immune system, plus your chiropractor can consult with you to develop a plan to promote a healthier, more active lifestyle.

Your practitioner can also help you devise a healthy diet plan if excessive weight gain is one of the byproducts of you being overextended. Becoming more educated about the cause of your pain and working toward a life with more balance will inhibit a decline in your health.

Time for You

Whether you’re an official caregiver or just a generous friend and loved one, you don’t benefit anyone by depriving yourself so much that it results in illness, or even death. Don’t neglect your own emotional and physical health.

Most importantly, give attention to what you need. Taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. The site explains that approximately 72 percent of caregivers do not go to the doctor as often as they should, and females are twice as likely to neglect filling prescriptions.

If you find you’re hauling others to doctor appointments while canceling your own regular chiropractic appointments, turn it around by changing the schedule. If your job involves physically taxing motion or heavy lifting, especially, a chiropractor can monitor your body’s reaction to the stress.

The WebMD article has suggestions to offset the burnout you sometimes encounter when you serve others more than you serve yourself:

  • Confide in a trusted friend
  • Set realistic goals
  • Make changes before becoming overwhelmed

Seek out respite care services to get breaks. Set limits -- say no to plans that sound unrealistic -- and carve out time for your own pampering and routine care. Your wellness is your responsibility, and being an advocate for yourself first means you’ve got plenty to give to others. Nice guys don’t have to finish last.

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