According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, there are currently over 53 million family caregivers in the United States. Family caregivers provide unpaid care for their loved ones, often older adults, who are living with chronic conditions or disabilities. While caregiving can be a rewarding experience, it can also be physically and emotionally exhausting, leading to what’s known as caregiver burnout.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that results from long-term caregiving. It is a common experience among family caregivers, and it can have a significant impact on their health and well-being. Symptoms of caregiver burnout may include:
Feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious
Sleeping too much or too little
Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
Feeling irritable or angry
Neglecting your own needs, such as skipping meals or not getting enough exercise
Feeling hopeless or helpless
Getting sick more often than usual
Prevent Caregiver Burnout
Preventing caregiver burnout requires self-care and support. Being proactive is key. Here are some tips to help you stay healthy and avoid burnout:
Take breaks: It’s essential to take regular breaks from caregiving to recharge and rest. Even short breaks throughout the day can make a big difference.
Get support: Don’t be afraid to ask for help from family members, friends, or professionals. And don’t wait until the overwhelm has consumed you to ask. Joining a support group for caregivers can also be helpful.
Prioritize self-care: Make time for yourself to do things you enjoy, such as exercise, reading, or spending time with friends. This tends to be the first thing to go when time is limited. Move it to the TOP of the list.
Caregiver burnout is a common experience among family caregivers, but it can be prevented and managed with self-care and support. Recognizing the warning signs of burnout and seeking help when needed is essential for the well-being of both the caregiver and their loved one. Taking care of yourself is not selfish; it is necessary to maintain your health and continue providing care for your loved one. By practicing self-care, setting boundaries, and seeking help when needed, you can avoid or manage caregiver burnout and continue to provide the best possible care for your loved one. Remember, you are not alone, and there are resources and support available to help you through this journey.
Are You in Crisis? Help is Available
If you are struggling with mental health, depression, or thoughts of suicide, you are not alone and you do not have to suffer in silence. If you or someone you know needs emergency assistance, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Find more help at www.nami.org.
Liz Craven, co-publisher of Sage Aging ElderCare Guide with her husband Wes, combines personal experience and heartfelt dedication in her work. Their journey in eldercare began with a personal story—caring for Wes' grandmother, Mabel, who lived with Alzheimer's. This chapter in their lives not only highlighted the complexities of eldercare but also kindled a deep-seated passion to support others facing similar challenges. Since then, Liz and Wes have navigated caregiving three more times. These experiences have added layers of depth to their insights, allowing them to offer a blend of empathetic understanding and practical advice through the Sage Aging ElderCare Guide. Liz’s commitment to making eldercare more approachable and less daunting shines through in every piece of advice she offers, aiming to ease the caregiving journey for others.