Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. Burnout in this sense may come in a change in attitude – from positive and upbeat to negative or apathetic. Also known as caregiver strain and burden, it can happen when help isn’t available, or if a caregiver tries to do more than he or she has the time, money, or energy to manage.

It is easy to become so engrossed in looking after others that you neglect your own emotional, physical, and spiritual health. The demands on your body, mind, and emotions can take over, leading to fatigue and hopelessness. Many caregivers feel guilty if they spend time on themselves rather than on an ill or elderly loved one. Sometimes their own children and other home responsibilities fall by the wayside. Overexerting yourself can mar the quality of your sleep and impede your ability to relax and unwind, or effectively care for anyone. Ultimately, you will burn out.

If you are responsible for an aging loved one, it’s normal to want to be there for them and offer the best care possible. It is natural to feel frustrated, sad, lonely, or even angry. But it’s also important to recognize the signs that you are overwhelmed and to find ways of lightening the workload.

Caregiver Burnout Facts

  • In the past five years, over 40 million family caregivers provided 37 billion hours of care for loved ones. The value of this care is estimated at $470 billion.

  • At least 20% of adult children are taking care of an older parent.

  • About 85% of family caregivers in the U.S. do not receive any respite care.

  • The last phase of life is generally 4.5 to 5 years.

  • Nearly half of family caregivers over age 40 handle medical tasks, from changing bandages to inserting catheters or feedings tubes. Among that group, only 47% say they have received adequate training to perform those tasks. But more than 90% of family caregivers say they value the experience.

  • Nearly half of caregivers have trouble balancing work and caregiving.

  • Men are more likely to have employers who are not supportive of their caregiving duties.

  • Of working caregivers, 8% state that they have been sidelined from job-growth opportunities because of their caregiving responsibilities.

  • Alzheimer’s disease and other mental-health conditions are more stressful on caregivers than dealing with physical ailments.

  • Half of adult caregivers say it’s moderately or very difficult to balance work and caregiving.

  • Three-quarters of the respondents found it to be stressful, and more than half found it to be overwhelming.

  • Depression affects 20 to 40% of all caregivers.

  • In the U.S., most caregivers are female and the patient receiving home care is the caregiver’s mother.

  • Women have been found to be more susceptible to caregiver burnout than men. Those who are responsible for helping someone with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or a debilitating illness are also at a high risk of developing their own medical issues.

  • Nine out of 10 caregivers surveyed said that even with all the burdens, caring for their loved one is worthwhile.

Take steps to get your life back into balance.

Signs of Caregiver Burnout

The early signs of burning out are when you find yourself becoming irritable and strained. You might start to feel angry. If you aren’t working because of your caregiving duties, you might worry about money and how you’ll manage everything. You may also experience:

  • Emotional and physical exhaustion

  • Feeling pulled in two directions

  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and other loved ones

  • Loss of interest in activities which you previously enjoyed

  • Changes in appetite, weight, or both

  • Changes in sleep patterns

  • Getting sick more often

  • Feelings of alienation, helplessness, or hopelessness

  • Lack of energy to do new things

  • Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring

  • Excessive use of alcohol, medications or sleeping pills

  • Losing control physically or emotionally

  • Feeling stressed in the patient’s presence

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Missing appointments

If you recognize the warning signs of burnout, it will only get worse if you ignore them or keep them to yourself. Take steps to get your life back into balance. There is a point at which you must communicate your feelings to your family and doctor.