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Caregiver Burnout

February 28, 2022
Upset woman feeling tired sitting on couch

Burnout doesn’t just come from stress from work.  It can come from caring for a sick relative or an elderly parent.  Sound familiar?

What is caregiver burnout?

Overwhelmed woman sitting down holding her knees.

Caregiver burnout often looks like an extended period of depression, where numbness or panic start to set in, and you feel like trying to improve your situation would be futile.  Burnout is different than feeling stressed about caregiving responsibilities or grieving because it’s often accompanied by a feeling of numbness. It’s a feeling of being beaten down by circumstances so often, that you can’t get back up.  And it can feel like being disconnected from your life.

What causes caregiver burnout?

Exhausted woman holding hands against face looking at computer.

Ultimately, caregiver burnout results when caregivers aren’t getting the help THEY need. Being stretched too thin and doing more than physically or mentally possible.  And in many situations, these individuals are giving all they have to someone else while neglecting their own needs.

How do you know you’re experiencing burnout?

Adult son comforting elderly father sitting on couch.

Not everyone experiences caregiver burnout the same way or at the same time. It can happen when you’re caring for someone with a less challenging diagnosis, or when caring for someone with a very challenging diagnosis.  And in many situations, the caregiver is unable to recognize that they’re heading towards burnout.  Because burnout is associated with feeling discouraged or disengaging from life, here are some signs one may experience:

  • Losing interest in things you previously enjoyed
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • A change in attitude from loving to unconcerned or negative
  • Getting sick often
  • Difficulty falling asleep and lower sleep quality
Woman laying in bed awake with clock displaying 3:41 am.

Many times, your self-esteem may also take a hit, and you may stop feeling good about yourself. You may feel alone, and at the same time, you may feel like you can never actually be alone and by yourself.

Crying woman sitting on couch holding pushing hair out of face.

Did you know that WHO you’re caring for can also contribute to burnout risk?  Some studies have shown that women found caring for a spouse or child to be more stressful and more detrimental to mental health than caring for a parent or someone else.

Managing caregiver burnout

Senior woman embracing her senior husband.

If this sounds like something you’re going through, here are some things that may help:

  • Allow yourself to feel your emotions. As a caregiver, you feel you need to be strong, to not cry or feel angry. But feeling negative feelings and not pushing them away is not only normal, but important.
  • Prioritize self-care. Practice mindfulness twice daily or go for short walks. Making time for yourself is necessary, especially when it’s hard.
  • Delegate some responsibility. From reducing work hours, using paid caregivers, to saying no at times can help reduce the burden of caregiving.
  • See a therapist or join a support group. Whether you’re already burned out or headed in that direction, counselling can provide coping skills and ways to process emotions. Being able to talk to people in a similar situation or a therapist can make you feel connected again. And this type of support can be very helpful.

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