Caregiver burnout

Self-Care for the Caregiver; Guarding Against Caregiver Burnout

Care partners are accustomed to selflessly attending to the needs of others. But what happens when a care partner becomes physically and emotionally exhausted?

In many cases, care partners who experience burnout feel anxious, depressed and fatigued, and they may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.

Some care partners also feel guilty if they take time to rest and attend to their own needs. In addition, care partners may become frustrated by too little time, money and other resources.

Signs of Care Partner Burnout

If you serve as a care partner, consider whether you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Disturbed sleep.
  • Irritability and feelings of hopelessness.
  • Feeling physically and emotionally exhausted.
  • Withdrawing from loved ones and friends.
  • Lack of interest in activities you enjoyed in the past.
  • Unexplained changes in weight or appetite.
  • Frequent use of alcohol or medications to help you sleep.

What Steps Can You Take to Avoid Burnout?

Caring for a family member represents one of the most-demanding challenges most people will face. The job comes with significant responsibilities and, often, little support. As a family member with chronic health problems continues to decline, a care partner may experience feelings of guilt and grief.

Constantly giving without attending to your own needs may not be sustainable in the long term. What are some steps you can take to avoid caregiver burnout so you can continue to provide the best possible care for your loved one?

  1. Avoid setting unrealistic goals about doing everything on your own. There’s no shame in asking for help, and there will be times that help is absolutely necessary.
  2. Educate yourself about any medical conditions your loved one faces. By having a good understanding of any chronic or progressive conditions, you will know what to expect in the future.
  3. Identify people you trust — including friends, family members and neighbors — and can turn to when you need a break. It’s also important to have people you can talk to when you feel frustrated or begin feeling burned out.
  4. Take time to attend to your own needs. Pay attention to your physical health and make time to eat right and exercise. This includes making sure you see your doctor for regular physicals and recommended screenings.
  5. Turn to professionals when needed. Consider speaking with a professional counselor if you feel that you can benefit, and don’t hesitate to use respite care for a temporary break from your care responsibilities.

By practicing self-care, you can maintain the stamina you need for serving as the best possible care partner. If you feel that you’re experiencing burnout as a care partner, reach out to people you trust for help.