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Breaking Down the Caregiving Compass: A Roundtable Discussion
Thursday, March 7th 2pm-3:30pm. Click HERE & RSVP Today!
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Caregiver Burnout Symptoms: Recognizing and Preventing Exhaustion in Caregivers

Caregiving is a demanding role that often requires a significant amount of time, energy, and emotional investment—which is why it’s important to recognize caregiver burnout symptoms as soon as possible.

According to CDC data, more than half (53%) of caregivers in America indicate that declines in their health will compromise their ability to provide care.

Furthermore, caregivers are at risk of experiencing burnout and exhaustion—emotionally, mentally, physically, and even spiritually. Caregiver burnout symptoms might include stress and depression, along with feelings of fatigue, anxiety, and hopelessness.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the causes of caregiver burnout, how to recognize caregiver burnout symptoms, and how to prevent and manage exhaustion in caregivers.

What is caregiver burnout?

Caregiver burnout is a state of exhaustion in mind and body when the stress of it all becomes too much, which can be accompanied by a change in attitude—from a positive and caring one to a negative and unconcerned one.

Burnout often occurs when caregivers don’t get the assistance they need or they try to take on responsibilities beyond what they are capable of handling. Many family caregivers end up taking care of multiple loved ones or have families of their own in addition to caring for their ailing loved one.

Caregivers may feel guilty if they spend any time on themselves rather than on their ill or elderly loved ones, further contributing to their burnout.

What contributes to caregiver burnout?

Depending on the loved one’s condition, caregiving can be both physically and emotionally taxing. Several factors can add up and lead to burnout. 

Emotional demands

Caring for someone with a degenerating illness or serious disability can be emotionally challenging. The constant need for physical and emotional care can be overwhelming, particularly if there is no way to improve the person’s condition.

Conflicting schedules

Caregivers often juggle multiple responsibilities, such as meeting the needs of the care receiver, spouse, children, employer, and co-workers. Trying to fulfill everyone’s expectations can create conflict and stress, ultimately leading to burnout.

The ambiguity of roles

Sometimes caregivers may not be clear about their roles and responsibilities in relation to others around them, leading to confusion and stress. If there are other in-home nurses or family members involved, communication and a little planning are key to ensure that everyone’s needs are met.

Workload

A demanding workload can contribute to caregiver burnout, particularly if there is a lack of support or respite from caregiving duties. This can mean that if caregiving is your job—it’s common to become burnt out by your everyday job. Or if you’re juggling a job on top of caregiving responsibilities, stress can pile up quickly.

Conflicting policies and procedures

For professional caregivers, conflicting policies and procedures can prevent them from providing the care they believe is appropriate. Family caregivers may also face difficulties in accessing the services and support they need.

Lack of privacy

Caregivers may struggle to find time for themselves or have a constant stream of people in and out of their lives, adding to their stress and exhaustion. This is especially true if they live with the person they’re caring for.

Caregiver burnout symptoms

The symptoms of caregiver burnout can mirror those of stress and depression. Recognizing these symptoms can help identify burnout and take steps to address it:

  • Isolation from friends and other family members
  • Loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed
  • Feeling irritable, hopeless, and helpless
  • Compassion fatigue
  • Changes in appetite, weight, or both
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Frequently getting sick
  • Emotional and physical exhaustion
  • Ideations of hurting themselves or someone else

NOTE: If you know someone who is having thoughts of self-harm or harming others—seek immediate help—call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 (recently changed from the old 10-digit number).

How to prevent caregiver burnout

Preventing caregiver burnout involves taking proactive steps to manage stress, set realistic expectations, and seek support.

Be honest

Honesty about yourself and your situation is a crucial way to recognize your potential for caregiver burnout. Set realistic goals. Accept that anyone can need help with caregiving tasks and accept the help you receive. It could pay off to be honest with people, like your employer if there is any time off available for family leave.

Seek support

Find someone you trust—a friend, co-worker, or neighbor—someone to talk about your feelings and frustrations. Join caregiver support groups or workshops to share your experiences and learn coping strategies. If you’re not comfortable talking to anyone just yet, keep a journal where you can vent to yourself without judgment.

Be realistic about your loved one’s condition—and your limits

Acknowledge the realities of the disease or condition your loved one is facing—especially if it’s a progressive illness like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.  Understand there may be limitations to the care you can provide and that your loved one may eventually require additional support. It’s okay to acknowledge that you can’t do it all.

Prioritize self-care

Set aside time for yourself. Even an hour or two. Self-care is not a luxury for anyone; it’s an essential part of being an effective caregiver and functioning human. Maintain a healthy lifestyle: eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep.

It can be hard to incorporate these things into a busy schedule, but small changes can add up. Pack a peanut butter and jelly sandwich rather than stopping for fast food for lunch. Swap out one drink a day for water. Park further away to get some extra fresh air and steps in.

Seek professional help

Talk to a therapist, social worker, or religious advisor about your caregiving experiences and the emotions you’re experiencing. They can provide guidance and support for coping with caregiver stress and burnout.

Educate yourself

Learn as much as you can about your loved one’s illness and the resources available to support you. Knowledge like this can help you feel more confident and capable as a caregiver.

Resources to prevent and ease caregiver burnout symptoms

Even if you’re the only one available in your family to care for your loved one, you’re not alone. Utilize other resources to help you manage a difficult situation.

  • Home health services: Agencies can provide home health aides and nurses for short-term care, as well as respite care for caregivers. For Alzheimer’s disease, for example, alz.org could help you find help in your area.
  • Nursing homes or senior living: These institutions may offer short-term respite stays to provide caregivers with a break from their duties. If your care duties are becoming too much, it may be time to look into transitioning your loved one to a senior care community.
  • Private care aides: Professionals can assess your needs and coordinate care and services from non-profit organizations or private care groups.
  • Caregiver support services: Support groups (such as our bi-weekly virtual support group) and other programs can help caregivers recharge and connect with others facing similar challenges. Check with your local library or community center to see if in-person or virtual support groups are offered. 
  • Area agency or commission on aging: Local organizations and chapters of various national organizations—the AARP, for example, can provide information on services and resources in your area.

The Kensington Redondo Beach: Comprehensive care and support for your loved one

At The Kensington Redondo Beach, we understand the challenges caregivers face and offer a range of services to support both caregivers and their loved ones.

Our community provides everything from wellness, enrichment, and rehabilitation services to advanced memory care and end-of-life care, ensuring that your loved one has a home with us.

We adhere to Our Promise every day—to love and care for your family as we do for our own.

The Kensington Redondo Beach is a community of loving professionals dedicated to the comfort and happiness of your loved one.

Contact us today to meet our team and tell us about your loved one’s unique needs and preferences.