Personality Check: Are You a Caregiver at Risk?

These traits influence how healthy you'll be when providing care


Last updated: February 14, 2012
tragedy and comedy

Lots of things influence how stressful caregiving is for a given individual, like the state of your loved one's health, how long the caregiving journey has gone on, and how much help you have. Now add your personality to the list, according to a new study in Psychology and Aging.

  • Are you a negative, anxious person?
  • Are you energetic and outgoing?
  • Are you curious?
  • Are you friendly and compassionate?
  • Are you efficient and organized?

Personality accounted for about a quarter of the differences in caregivers' mental health and about 10 percent of the differences in their physical health, lead author Corinna Loeckenhoff, assistant professor of human development in Cornell University's College of Human Ecology said in Medical Xpress. More than 500 caregivers of older adults were involved in the study.

Being extraverted (being energetic and outgoing) was positively associated with mental and physical health; showing neuroticism (being negative and anxious) was negatively associated with mental and physical health.

Personality traits strongly influence resilience -- the ability to successfully weather challenges. "To understand how people deal with a challenge, it's not sufficient to focus on the sources of stress and strain. It's also critical to examine the resources that people can draw on," Loeckenhoff says.

Personality stays fairly constant over time. But two other kinds of traits, which are more changeable, also had a big role: Self-efficacy (feeling confident in one's abilities) was one of the most important influences. This confidence had an even bigger impact on how caregivers were affected mentally and physically than did the degree of caregiver strain (feeling overloaded and worried).

Your sense of self-efficacy -- that is, confidence -- can change as a result of verbal instruction, personal experience, and observing role models, Loeckenhoff adds. And that means that even though your individual make-up may make caregiving harder for you, if you know this, you can tap into resources that help you work with it.

Image by Flickr user jerebu, used under a Creative Commons license.

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24 Comments So Far. Add Your Wisdom.

over 2 years ago

To seek help , for th caregiver..I which it was tht easy , my mom doesn't want to b with anybody ,so tht rules out adult day care for her .. It makes it harder for me cause i can't have friends over, can't go upstairs to my room either to watch tv or read a book.. We wind up in a fight ,cause I left her alone.Or she doesn't talk to me for days.So every time I go upstairs I do spot cleaning ,wash th bathroom, vacum ,,shredded old bills,or clean out my closet.., put things away up in th attic..I t's so hard to have some alone time.. When I get th nerve up tht's when we wind up figthing,I walk out go to th park or church n sit for hours.... Of course I have no help from my sister's,I always hear we have our own family's,,Or they critize me by saying WHAT DO YOU DO ALL DAY'' That's th best yet..It's not fair.. I'm losing weight plus I don't sleep at night.. The new thing with my mom is she fell this pass sunday to get th paper ,she fell n has a black eye ,swollen lip .. refused to go to th ER to get checked..What else can go wrong .. I keep saying prays for me to get thru th day..THANKS FOR LISTENING''


over 2 years ago

hello everyone i hope ur taking care of ur self mentaly because let me tell you its so hard to keep ur self balance being a full time caregiviver so iam trying to relax myself for a while until my mom is napping thks for the coments and prayers and hugs iam so greatfull for this site because all of u could relate and understand i being praying reading and working out at nightime after i feed her and putting her to sleep , and sometimes like today imiss my freedom to go out and just having me time , but i guess that normal other wise another day fill with hopes and prayers and keeping my peace of mind thks god blessed u all .. tayra


over 2 years ago

my guestion is how does a couple who worked hard and saved and planned to not be in debt in retirement . How can we plan on day care situation or home health when we don't qualify for help till half of everything is spent down? We have been retired for several years, own a modest home and live 95% on our S.S.My husband will eventually need this care . I am still healthy and have a daughter who is willing to help when the time comes. My mother-in-law had all the help she needed because of her financial situation. Now i'm schrambling to figure out our future or" lack there of." I see the handwritting on the wall for me. I have asked guestiions, gotten advice ect. all is the same.( Un-certainity)


over 2 years ago

This is a wonderful web site with so much great information. But when I read the many cries for help from caregivers, I see a glaring omission. If you are a caregiver of an elderly loved one in your home, and you are overwhelmed, you owe it to yourself and your loved one to look into an Adult Day Health Center in your area. Many families don't know these places exist. An Adult Day Health Center is a day program, and your loved one can attend 2 days a week or more. They will be medically monitored, receive two good meals plus snacks, and receive great care - all while having a fun day. Many are geared toward those suffering from dementia or other serious medical issues. THese centers are VERY COST EFFECTIVE - much less than having home health aids come in. Many states Medicaid will pay if you qualify, and Veterans are covered by the V.A.. If your loved one can't be home alone or needs regular assistance, but they are not yet needing a nursing home, you owe it to yourself to look into an Adult Day Health Center near you - any you then get the help and a break to take care of yourself!


over 2 years ago

I have had to put my mother who just turned 68 Feb. 13th. in a nursing home with the help of my 2 younger sisters. I was trying to take care of her and my 60 year old ex- to- be husband whom had a complex series of disorders. And was refusing to be treated for possible cancer of the blood. Both my grown children, ( both sons) are disabled too. Work 60 + hours a week and keep up with them. It is impossible... I am going through a divorce and now have health problems of my own to deal with. I empathize with all of you and what you are having to deal with. I have been there, still there. If we don't get the adequate support this can be too overwhelming for anyone. I am gladto see that there are so many others whom are going through the same ordeals. If anyone likes to talk I am here.. Thanks for listening to me. Sometimes I have to find some time for myself.. (which is a major problem ) Stop and be still , God will answer our cries for help.... God Bless All of you!!!


over 2 years ago

worn out_not defeated, My heart goes out to you and all those here who have been so open about their situatons. I find nothing harder than having to have battles with siblings when it come to caring for your parent. I fought my brother all the time where my mother was concerned for he felt he was the ONLY one who could care for her and do what was right for here. Oh, how wrong he was and went around wearing blinders. Here I was a nurse and all my career was in Long Term Care but I never received the respect of my profession. I was even told one day to, "mind my business." Yes, that was what my brother told me. My mother had many health issues, angina, high blood pressure, arthritis and suffered from generalized anxiety disorder, which she passed on to me :( My brother took my mother to see her doctor twice a year and even when I suggested I take her to see her doctor, I was always told, NO! What I suggest if things continue the way they are for you, to seek Guardianship of your mother. I was getting ready to do that with my mother when her health turned for the worse and she was gone within 3 months.....we never knew what caused her to become severely anemic as her doctor ran all the tests she could except for a bone marrow biopsy so we suspect it was leukemia but we'll never know. You are doing the best you can, so keep your chin up.....seek some professional help with an attorney, the first visit is free but you can get a lot of answers during that consultation. My prayers go out to you and I pray that the Lord will continue to give you the strength you need to face each new day. Just love you mother and forget the hurtful things being said by your siblings, they are not offering help so truly they have no room to comment but I know it hurts. You have people here who care and understand. Take care.


over 2 years ago

I am taking care of my 86 year old mom. Dad passed away this summer and he had dementia as well as COPD and a heart condition. I took him to medical appts and was his advocate when hospitalized.. He was a challenge and now I have Mom with me as she cannot live alone. I am finding she is treating me as she did Dad...they fought a lot. My sister who lives nearby has been trying to be a problem..saying things that are not true and telling people I kicked my mom out of her house.... fact is the state dept of elders visited and said she could not live alone. I have done all the medical appts for the two of them and kept track of things but my sister is trying all she can to make things difficult. I am only able to continue because god gives me the strength. I was dx with cancer this past spring and completed surgery and radiation,My husband went for greener pastures a few months later and then my father passed away.....the financial situation is terrible. and now I am doing the best I can to take care of my mother and it is hard. I am criticized and judged...my sister even told people I had alzheimers...and of course I do not but it was done ...I have a lot to handle but God has given me the strength..when needed which is each and every day and night. I have other health problems but as my day, so has my strength been given to me..


over 2 years ago

Yes, I have been and still am a caregiver.. have been one most of my life. and it can pull on you from every angle. I have to have a support system to get through my daily challenges. Sometimes I feel like I need to be took care of. My self_ confidence gets shaken some times because of what they want, instead of knowing what they need. I have sleeping problems and now my blood pressure is staying elevated.. On 2 kinds of blood pressure med's and I am only in my 40's. I never thought that I would need that. I sometimes forget what I am going. seeing family members going through alzheimer's or dementia is heart breaking. I just hope that one day I, too will have the same level of care, that I have provide them.. Thank you...


Anonymous said over 2 years ago

I am caring for a spouse, who has COPD and CHF. He REFUSES to enter nursing care, even though his doctor has recommended it, because he is in constant pain, either from headaches, or knee problems, or shoulder problems, or coughing. His COPD also causes excessive snoring, which means I sleep on the sofa a lot. To top this off, my mother now has dementia. She forgot to pay rent a couple of months and my sister and I went through quite an ordeal, straightening out her finances. Thank God, Mom still has a great sense of humor. So there are still some good times. This keeps me balanced, since my husband's sense of humor is dwindling and his self-centeredness has increased.


over 2 years ago

reading all your coments always brings me to tears and it haved helped me with my own situation iam 41 years single and my mom in may 2011 had demecia we thought is was alzahaimer but it wasent im the only child so i had to start thinking how i was going to do with no family only a aunt the rest of the family they were to busy with there life i had the choice to place her in a home but where we live in puerto rico thouse places they are scary , so i decide to quit my job and take care of her full time moved back to her house and embrace the adventure and let me tell u its the most hard thing i have ever done my world is her 24 hours 7days a week no sick day or days off , but at the same time its been a blessing and a grown process and sometimes i think every thing happends for a reson in sep 2011 she felt and whent to hip surgery and it was intense she walk for 3 weeks and then stop walking but with love patience and tolerance and i saw that i am stronger that i ever knew i do everthing for her i bathher feed her diaper change and her feeding take two hour and that is a chalenge some days i just what to run away ugh but god has give me the streght to keep foward but a lonely road because all of friends get tiered of u cant do much and meeting a nice man or dating mission imposible well my thoughts and prayers are with u all god blessed and never second guess if ur doing it right just do it with love and give it all u best. .... tayra


over 2 years ago

I don't mean to sound crass or harsh...we just brought my mom home from the nursing home because her rehab was done, I, too, had promised my mother "no nursing home" but I realize that this was not a smart thing to do. If I were doing this alone, if I needed to put her in a home because i needed to quit my job or I couldn't afford her meds, depends, etc. anymore, I would do it. Sometimes the best and most kind decision we can make for our loved ones is to put them in a nursing home. Our nursing home isn't top notch. I had to stay on top of things, but knowing she was somewhere where she got 3 meals a day and snacks, I didn't need to wonder about how to bathe her, etc...I would not make that promise to her again. YOU are the only one who can take care of YOU. If you're taking care of yourself, you can better take care of the ones you love, be it parents, siblings, friends, or whoever. I have cycled through the positive (I was when this started) and hit the negative for too many years, and now it's back onto the positive again. Does that mean I no longer get tired? No. But I'm learning how to set boundaries. We caregivers are the biggest excuse makers in the world. It's hard to take a step back, but I'm doing it and it's freeing, and my mom's life goes on without me. I'm learning that others can do it just as well as I if given the chance. I never wanted to give the chance. Just telling you what I'm finding for myself.


over 2 years ago

Dear Anon. Rant all you need to. I can relate in more ways than you know. Had many family members in this town, but little help . Have not been gainfully employed since 05. Hired outside help, even borrowing against parents' home after savings was depleted. They got good care and are now gone. My life starts over........By God's Grace and with His strength. May He fill your needs and know you are loved and supported by many here. Hugs, love and prayers.


over 2 years ago

I feel like i can answer" yes" to every personality guestion on any given day. I'm trying to turn fear and denial into a postive God given gift of caregiving. I want to hear a" job well done" when my husband's needs are met and our life on earth together is done. I don't want to think "if only i had one more day"I would have been a better person to the man i love and i know loves me.


Anonymous said over 2 years ago

I would like to reply to anonymous 32 minutes ago. I am the caregiver of my parents. My father passed in march of last year and I am still taking care of my mother. I am a single parent. I resigned from my job to take on this responsibility. My siblings HAVE DONE NOT A THING BUT CUZ HAVIC !!! YOU ARE NOT ALONE. BUT DON'T TAKE IT PERSONAL. Your mother took care of you so now it's your turn as it is mine. NO IT AIN'T EASY...BUT YOU HAVE TO FIND TIME FOR PRAYER. GET OUT FOR SOME FRESH AIR EVERYDAY...


Anonymous said over 2 years ago

At the begining of caring for Mom I WAS a positive thinker ,29 ,knowing We'd conquer this together. Then came all of our family backing out of the picture ,siblings never helped physically once! As well as all the denials for help for services because she made 20 something $$$ too much to qualify...!!! Now 12+ yrs later yes ,I'm spent! Had a breakdown last year but does anyone think my siblings helped or stepped up then? Big fat NO ,I had to wait a week for even 1 to come by to discuss our options yet nothing We discussed has happened. I get the "Oh ,I'm sorry -I never knew" reaction to most things or the excuse of "I'm sorry its just how WE were raised ,to be selfish!" are you fffffff***ing kidding me?WE were raised by the same people. As you can tell after 12+ yrs I am negative ,I'll admit ,if I knew dropping Mom off at their home and driving away would help Mom I would but fear of them abusing her is to great to do that. Most days I take xanax to function due to GAD and PAD that was brought on by my breakdown. Mind you Mom is well taken care of with Me and my husband but we're looking for ways to get Mom placed at this point. About the "county aging services" in our area? Big fat nothing ,haven't even returned a call since October 2011 so they in my opinion are useless. Whoa ,ok sorry about the rant.


over 2 years ago

I haven't been here in some time. I cared for both my parents in their own home, as I promised Mom, "no nursing home". My heart and prayers go out to all. This site was a big help to me. While God prepared me (unbeknownst to me 40 years ago) for the role of caregiver, I never considered the challenge that Alzheimer's would bring. Until someone walks in your shoes, they cannot grasp what you deal with. By God's grace and with His strength, you can be and do all that is necessary and do it with love, patience and compassion. It's not a piece of cake, by any means, but the reward is peace of mind knowing you accepted the role and gave it your all, with or often without the help of others. May God give you all you need and know that we here, are with you. Hugs and Prayers to ALL.


Anonymous said over 2 years ago

Feeling "confident in one's ability's" doe not help much when you are trying to take care of your elderly parent all alone. In my opinion, there is no way to work and take care of your elderly parent at the same time if they are in a severe state. I was real confident 7 years ago but that was when I had the financial resources and other people to help. Who do all of us who are caregivers turn to when the money is gone and the help has disappeared because as all of you know, Caregiving is the hardest job on the earth bar none! Confidence does not put food on the table or pay for your parent's Depends.


over 2 years ago

I'm an only child and I have a friend that is in stage 4 of Interstitial lung disease w/ fibrosis and she helps me alot, she takes care of my Mom once a week for 4 hours so I can do what I have to, I have RA so many doctor visits etc... All, the family are so called busy. I have been seriously thinking of an assistant living, but also I think she took care of me? Why can't I take care of her. I don't know how long I have to have my friend, she is my right hand and a sister I never had. For the person that is 69 there are caregivers to come to the house and help out. In my prayers!!


over 2 years ago

One thing that has set me free in the caregiving I do with my mom is to remember that her instructions on how to do things are not something I need to take personal. She knows I'm 41 and she knows she taught me well. However, this is her last grasp on life. She has ESRD and has been on dialysis since 2002. It's being a long journey, but being open to learning new things about my loved one and myself and not being too proud to admit I am wrong...well, it has gone a long way to giving me peace about this journey. I have cycled through the negative and the positive. I am by nature a people pleaser and love to be with people. Caregiving is teaching me how to please mom and still stand up for myself, as well as how to enjoy solitude. My attitude is my choice, and I also have to choose how to respond to the people who don't understand what I'm dealing with. Choosing to love gives way to freedom and releases me from the expectations of others. Hugs to all caregivers!


over 2 years ago

Personality Check List Are you a negative, anxious person? Are you energetic and outgoing? Are you curious? Are you friendly and compassionate? Are you efficient and organized? I am my Mom caregiver and it is hard, because we expect them to be the one we use to know and they are not. Many people tell me to say to myself its not them its the disease. I am struggling also on how to deal with her. Many thinks she comes up with that are not true and I end of arguing with her telling her its not true. I understand there are support groups. Because my Mom is very negative. I have turned it over to God also. They become like a child. All the time I go out she wants McD's. Tables have turned.


over 2 years ago

Anonymous, my thoughts and prayers go out to you and ALL caregivers for we carry a heavy load. Keep looking to God for in my situation, He is all I can turn to for help.....He will never fail you. Patience is the only thing that one truly needs but sometimes we get so tired and weary that the patience runs thin. Is there someone who could sit with your husband once a week so you could get out with a friend for lunch or to run errands? Coming here helps a lot too :)


over 2 years ago

Hello Redneck Angel! It's fairly simple really. What this article was trying to say is that people have different personalities that either help them with caregiving or can cause them problems. Those that are positive in their attitudes and can take things in stride do better than those, (me included) who are negative thinkers. I know, for I've been caring for my husband for 4 years and I don't do well because I have fewer coping skills and anxiety. I worry all the time especially since he's now been diagnosed with an enlarged, weakened heart. I was once a nurse but had to quit because of my anxiety and my need to care for him. He also was involved in a major car accident that has left him disabled. I don't know your circumstances but do ask for help if you're caring for a loved one. Look to your county aging services and call them. Gee, I should practice what I preach, I've yet to do that myself :) Ask other family members to help out if possible. That isn't an option for me though, it is only me and the hubby, all my children live out of state and my only daughter never speaks to us. Life goes on and I do the best I can. May God bless you.


Anonymous said over 2 years ago

I can relate to the personality check. alot of negatives ect .in my 69 yrs. Now my husband needs me to love and understand him.I struggle with knowing what kind of caregiver i need to be.I pray for God's help for my husband who is struggling with memory loss.


over 2 years ago

Whomever wrote this article needs to "translate" it into something understandable for those of us who don't have a degree in psychology!


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