Written by Ari Parker — Updated: Thursday, December 1, 2022
The number of caregivers for 50+ individuals increased from 14% in 2015 to 17% in 2020—and is expected to rise as our population continues to age (source: caregiving.com). These caregivers spend an average of about 22 hours per week providing care, and 19% spend 41 or more hours. Couple this time spent for caregiving with childcare and career commitments and it’s easy to see why caregivers can burn out. As demand for unpaid caregivers increases, so does the prevalence of caregiver burnout.
Caregiver burnout occurs when caregivers try to do more than they can handle physically or emotionally—often because they’re unable to receive the support they need or because they feel like they need to do it all. This can cause a state of exhaustion that leaves caregivers feeling stressed, anxious, and depressed.
It’s normal to experience stress regardless of whether or not you’re caring for someone else, so how can you know if you’re suffering from caregiver burnout? Understanding the signs and symptoms is a good place to start.
Caregiver burnout has similar symptoms to stress, depression, and burnout caused by work. These symptoms often include:
A sense of hopelessness
Withdrawal from activities and loved ones
Getting sick frequently
Changes in your sleep patterns and appetite
Exhaustion and irritability
When experiencing high levels of stress, exhaustion, and negative emotions, it can be difficult to understand what is causing these feelings in the moment. Unfortunately, when you’re burnt out, it can be difficult to uphold your caregiving responsibilities, and this can cause feelings of guilt that only further exasperate your burnout. Preventing burnout is incredibly important because it will allow you to continue to care for both yourself and your loved one(s).
Pulling yourself out of burnout is challenging—and that’s if you’re even able to realize your burnt out. If you or a loved one is experiencing signs of burnout, take these steps to prevent or manage the symptoms.
If you’re unable to get help with all of your caregiving responsibilities, you may be able to get help with some through local and national resources. You can also search for support from friends and family in areas outside of caregiving, like cooking and cleaning.
Get help with homemaking
As a caregiver, you may be a homemaker for your home as well as for your loved one(s). Think about if there’s someone else in your household who can take on more responsibilities to free up some of your time. If finding help feels impossible, look for ways to decrease how much time you spend on these tasks. One way to save time is to do more meal planning and decluttering. These two efforts require upfront time, but can result in significant time savings in the long run.
Seek advice and support from experts
There are a lot of new challenges that come with aging. When it comes to understanding the ins and outs of Medicare, medical conditions, and late-stage financial planning, there are experts who can help, so you can spend your time caring for yourself and your loved ones instead of researching these complex issues.
When it comes to Medicare, Chapter provides the best guidance in America, so you can be sure your loved ones are receiving the most affordable, high-quality health insurance available to them without taking weeks to understand Medicare and research the details of the 20,000+ plans available nationwide. Click here to get started with Chapter.
As a caregiver, it can be easy to put the needs of your loved ones above your own—after all, they’re the ones who need support, right? But if you don’t take care of your own needs, you could be left feeling too drained to help at all. On planes, they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others for the same reason. Taking care of your needs may require regular health check-ins to make sure your mental and physical health aren’t suffering. It may also mean taking a break.
Check in on your health regularly
Taking care of someone else can take a toll, regardless of how much time and energy it requires. Keep track of your mental and physical health regularly (daily, weekly, or monthly) to make sure you aren’t losing sight of your own needs. If you start to see some health factors decrease, consider ways to scale back or take a break.
Find time for a break
A break doesn’t mean you’re breaking your commitment. In fact, taking breaks when you need them will help you tend to your commitment of caregiving. If you provide constant care, consider respite care as a way to get a temporary break. If you’re balancing caring for someone with a health condition, taking care of children and/or your career, find time for yourself—you could spend it taking a bath, working out, meditating, or anything else you enjoy doing that doesn’t require thinking about someone else’s needs.
As a care recipient, you may be looking for ways to return the favor to your committed caregiver(s). It’s not always easy to help, but even seemingly small acts can go a long way to show someone you’re thankful and make their support feel meaningful.
Help with anything within or outside of care obligations
You may need assistance with setting and getting to appointments, but can you help by preparing meals or even creating a schedule that reduces the hours they need to be there for you? Look for ways (big and small) that you can take a little bit off the plates of those caring for your needs.
Do something kind
In some cases, your conditions may mean you’re unable to help your caregiver(s) with their responsibilities, but don’t underestimate the power of kindness. Saying “thank you,” offering a warm hug, and getting their favorite treat could be the support they need to keep going!
Caregiving is rewarding, but it can also be taxing. It’s important to know that any feelings of resentment, guilt, and depletion aren’t abnormal—and they don’t mean you don’t love the person you’re caring for. If you ever feel alone in your caregiving journey, take a look at this video or join a support group to remind yourself you aren’t alone.