CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee(WDEF) - The recent murder suicide case in McMinn County led to many questions about the stress involved with being the caregiver of an elderly relative.
"Perhaps that caused him to act irrationally and take her life and then go outside and take his own life," said McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy
Guy was referring to the Tuesday night incident in which Kenneth Dickson, 65, suffocated his 85-year old aunt before committing suicide. The aunt was a stroke victim and Dickson was her primary caretaker.
"So it's possible that he just became overwhelmed with the situation he was in with responsibilities and took drastic actions," Guy said
But that's not uncommon. In fact, medical professional call it "caregiver burnout," a condition in which being a caretaker becomes too stressful and eventually leads to irrational thinking.
According to Licensed Clinical Social Worker Farlie Chastain, there are warning signs of caregiver burnout.
"For starters, withdrawing from activities that are usually enjoyed. Changes in appetite. Inability to sleep. Constant worry or feeling of unease or irritability and even feeling angry with the person you're taking care of. Being angry with yourself because you're not able to do everything that person needs," Chastain said.
Experts say many caregivers don't even realize their burned out.
"They're so busy and so intent on keeping everything together, that they don't take time to stop and say how am I doing as an individual," Chastain said.
The harsh reality is that at some point, many people will be faced with becoming a caregiver but experts say it's all about how an individual handles the stress involved.
If anyone is a caregiver who needs help managing stress or knows someone who is caring for an elderly person and needs help, they are urged to contact the Parkridge Valley Hospital
at 423-499-2300. The line is open 24-hours a day and all calls are confidential.