Caregiver Burnout

What is Caregiver Burnout?

Caregivers are often so busy caring for others that they neglect their own emotional and physical needs. Some don’t get the assistance they need or try to do more than they are able.

When caregivers don’t have a support system they begin to suffer from fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression which leads to major burnout. Mental exhaustion may be accompanied by a change in attitude – from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned.

What are the Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout?

  • Withdrawal from friends, family and other loved ones
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
  • Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless and helpless
  • Changes in appetite, weight or both
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Getting sick more often
  • Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring
  • Emotional and physical exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Feeling like you can’t take it one more day
  • Fantasizing about escape

What Causes Caregiver Burnout?

  • Role confusion – Role confusion is common when people are thrust into the role of caregiver. It can be difficult for a person to separate her role as caregiver from her role as spouse, lover, child or friend.
  • Unrealistic expectations — Many caregivers expect their contribution to have a positive effect on the health and happiness of the patient. This may be unrealistic for patients suffering from a progressive disease such as cancer, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
  • Lack of control — Many caregivers become frustrated by a lack of money, resources and skills to effectively manage their loved one’s care.
  • Unreasonable demands — Some caregivers place unreasonable burdens upon themselves because they see providing care as their exclusive responsibility.
  • Other factors — Many caregivers cannot recognize when they are suffering burnout and eventually get to the point where they cannot function effectively. They may even become sick themselves.

Tips to Prevent Burnout

Here are some steps you can take to help prevent caregiver burnout:

  • Find someone you trust to talk with about your feelings and frustrations.
  • Accept that you may need help.
  • Take time for yourself.
  • Schedule respite care breaks.
  • Know your limits and recognize your potential for caregiver burnout.
  • Educate yourself. The more you know about the illness, the more effective you will be in caring your loved one.
  • Develop new tools for coping. Remember to lighten up and accentuate the positive. Use humor to help deal with stress.
  • Stay healthy by eating right and getting plenty of exercise and sleep.
  • Accept your feelings. Having negative feelings — such as frustration or anger — about your responsibilities or the person for whom you are caring is normal.
  • Develop a contingency plan in case of an emergency.
  • Join a caregiver support group. Sharing your feelings and experiences with others in the same situation can help you manage stress, locate local resources and reduce feelings of frustration and isolation.

Comments on this entry are closed.