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The term caregiver can mean many things. It could mean that you are caring for a newborn baby, or that you are caring for an aging or ill loved one. Sometimes the role of caregiver is temporary, because children grow up and older adults may get sick for a short period of time. But what if you are assisting an aging or ill loved one with a permanent condition?
In that case, your caregiving will be ongoing and the likelihood is strong that it will become more challenging as your loved one’s condition continues to decline. As such, it is well worth your while to learn how to avoid burning out. Let’s look at the signs of caregiver burnout and what you can do to prevent it.
Caregiving can take a lot of work, time, patience and emotional fortitude, and without adequate self-care, burnout is not uncommon. So what is caregiver burnout?
Caregiver burnout is generally characterized by a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. Caregivers may experience a change in attitude about the care they provide, and may also feel guilty, anxious or depressed about feeling overwhelmed. Because caregiving can be so demanding, there are many reasons that someone providing care can get overwhelmed.
Despite intentions to do the best for our loved ones, we still need to care for ourselves. After all, how can you help someone if you are not well yourself? The statistics related to caregiver stress are sobering and indicate that there can be health issues, financial impacts and a decrease in the productivity of the caregiver’s work. Statistics also show caregivers may have to leave their jobs to care for a family member, which means a loss of income and often health insurance benefits.
Caregiving can make caregivers’ lives more complicated. More than 1 in 6 Americans providing care to a loved one is also working full or part-time. However, 61% of caregivers experience at least one change in their employment due to caregiving. As a result, 38% of family caregivers rate their caregiving situation as highly stressful. Additionally, 17% of caregivers feel their health has gotten worse because of caregiving duties and 40-70% of family caregivers have symptoms of depression.
Caregiving can have a serious impact on the caregiver’s life and overall well-being. As time goes on, these effects can lead to caregiver burnout, which can be harmful to all involved.
In order to help avoid caregiver burnout, it is important to know what you should look out for. The signs of caregiver burnout can sneak up on you, so being aware of what to watch out for is critical.
The signs of caregiver burnout are similar to those of anxiety, depression and stress. You may feel physical symptoms, emotional symptoms, mental symptoms or all of the above. If you notice any of these caregiver burnout symptoms, seek help and support right away. Caregiver burnout not only impacts your own health, but it can ultimately impact the care you provide.
Caregiver burnout is a serious concern and should be addressed quickly, and with care. Ideally, you should do what you can to avoid caregiver burnout in the first place. However, since it may occur regardless, you should have some strategies in place to help you manage it, too.
What is caregiver burnout prevention going to look like for you?
Prevent caregiver burnout by:
You may find that no matter what you do, you get overwhelmed and burned out anyway. If that happens, it is equally important to know what to do.
Manage caregiver burnout by:
It’s also helpful to be prepared for someone else to take over at some point, whether temporarily, or full-time. Home health care or a care facility may become a necessity.
Many caregivers make a promise to their loved ones that they will not put them in a nursing home or other care facility. However, if care giving becomes too difficult for you, you may need to make that difficult choice anyways. You may need to switch from being the primary caregiver back to being the child or spouse. This can take a tremendous amount of stress off your shoulders. At the end of the day, your best choice may turn out to be that you need to resume the role of being a loving family member.
What stress have you encountered as a caregiver? How did you balance the role between care giving and being a loving family member?
Author: Cheryl A. Acres RN, CCM
 “Caregiver Burnout; Causes, Symptoms & Prevention.” Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, 13 Jan. 2019, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9225-caregiver-burnout.
 “Practical Solutions for Caregiver Stress.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 16 Dec. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/caregiver-stress/art-20044784.
 “Caregiver Statistics: Work and Caregiving.” Family Caregiver Alliance, Family Caregiver Alliance, 2016, www.caregiver.org/resource/caregiver-statistics-work-and-caregiving/.
 “Caregiver Statistics: Health, Technology, and Caregiving Resources.” Family Caregiver Alliance, Family Caregiver Alliance, 2016, www.caregiver.org/resource/caregiver-statistics-health-technology-and-caregiving-resources/.