More than 40 million Americans are unpaid caregivers. Though caring for a loved one offers the assurance that they’re getting quality, loving care from someone who truly understands them, it can also be grueling work. One in 10 caregivers says that caregiving has negatively affected their physical health. Between 40 and 70 percent of caregivers struggle with depression. Caregiver burnout is very real, and very serious. You can’t care for your loved one if your own health falls apart. Here’s what you need to know about your own risk of caregiver burnout.
What Is Caregiver Burnout?
Caregiving is challenging work, and most caregivers don’t get caregiver training. This means you’re facing a challenging diagnosis in the dark and trying to help your loved one without sufficient knowledge. Even as you learn, the work can become exhausting. Particularly if you’re also juggling a job, young children, or other responsibilities, you may find that your caregiving duties come into constant conflict with the rest of your life. Some caregivers feel like they spend all of their time making impossible choices and always falling short of everyone’s expectations.
When this goes on for long enough, burnout is inevitable. People experiencing burnout may feel overwhelmed even by small decisions, unable to act in their loved one’s best interests, or resentful and frustrated. Some find that they are less capable of caring about their loved one, or about the things that once interested them. Over time, burnout can affect your physical and mental health and may undermine your ability to provide proper care. It can also make it difficult to work with the rest of your family, negotiate roles and duties, or make good decisions.
Warning Signs of Caregiver Burnout
Some signs you may be at risk of caregiver burnout include:
- You are the sole or primary caregiver.
- Loved ones are not supportive, or are actively critical of your care.
- You have many other duties, such as parenting or a demanding job.
- You spend a significant portion of your time providing care.
- Your loved one has a demanding diagnosis such as dementia.
- You don't get a break from caregiving, or you live with the care recipient.
- Your caregiving work has recently increased, or you’ve recently lost a significant source of support.
- Caregiving is a financial drain.
People with these risk factors should begin building a support system early and should explore senior living options to help balance out some of their caregiving responsibilities. Therapy, supportive friends and family, meaningful downtime, and occasional vacations may also help.
You may be experiencing caregiver burnout if:
- You feel less committed than before to your caregiving work.
- You feel depressed.
- You often get frustrated with your loved one or feel less invested than usual in their care.
- Your caregiving work affects your job or your relationships with your children.
- You’re experiencing intense financial distress related to caregiving.
- Loved ones have expressed concern that you might be burned out.
- You find yourself angry at or resentful of loved ones.
- You experience stress-related ailments such as headaches or chronic pain.
No single human being can provide all of the care another person needs. Even if you give up sleep, give up your job, and abandon your own needs, a person with a serious chronic illness such as dementia or cancer needs 24/7 care. If you’re feeling caregiver burnout, it’s not your fault. You need and deserve some support.
The right senior living community is a caretaking partner. They can alleviate caregiver burden, restore balance to your relationships, enrich your loved one’s life, and ensure they get the quality support they need. For advice about discussing senior living options, download our free guide, “How to Talk to Your Parent About Senior Living.”