Caregiver Burnout: You’re Not Alone - Medicine on Time
Jul 09

Caregiver Burnout: You’re Not Alone

When caring for a loved one, the thought of self-care is often the last thing on your mind. The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming, especially if you feel that you’re in over your head or have little control over the situation. If the stress of caregiving is left unchecked, it can take a toll on your health, relationships, and state of mind—eventually leading to caregiver burnout.

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude — from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned. Burnout can occur when caregivers don’t get the help they need, or if they try to do more than they are able — either physically or financially. Many caregivers also feel guilty if they spend time on themselves rather than on their ill or elderly loved ones. Caregivers who are “burned out” may experience fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression.

Symptoms of burnout can be easy to spot, but the causes are a little less noticeable to the caregiver. The Cleveland Clinic proposes to watch out for these hidden causes:

Role Confusion

Many people are confused when 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, friend, etc.

Unrealistic Expectations

Many caregivers expect their involvement 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 Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.

Lack of Control

Many caregivers become frustrated by a lack of money, resources, and skills to effectively plan, manage, and organize their loved one’s care.

Unreasonable Demands

Some caregivers place unreasonable burdens upon themselves, in part because they see providing care as their exclusive responsibility. Some family members such as siblings, adult children, or the patient himself/herself may place unreasonable demands on the caregiver. These individuals also may disregard their own responsibilities and place burdens on the person identified as primary caregiver.

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.

As a caregiver, it’s easy to put yourself last. It’s easy to forget about your needs and your health. It’s so easy to go without, because you’re putting everyone else first. That’s okay – to an extent. Caregivers need to remember that they are people too. If you know a caregiver, reach out. Even emotional support can go a long way.