Is Caring for a Loved One Causing Burnout?

woman with a headache from the stress of caregiver burnout

When you’re caring for a loved one, you’re devoting nearly all of your time to making sure they’re healthy, happy, and  loved. You’re taking your loved one to appointments, doing their cooking and cleaning, and providing companionship day in and day out. 

This immense responsibility is often done with minimal assistance. Caregiving is a selfless and admirable role, and caregivers always put their loved one’s needs first. However, when caregivers don’t prioritize themselves, they may be at risk of burnout. 

What Is Caregiver Burnout?

Caregiver burnout is when caregivers are stressed and exhausted in every possible aspect of their lives – physically, emotionally, and mentally. Burnout can turn a loving, caring and attentive caregiver into a seemingly different person. Their demeanor and personality can change, and their health can decline. But why does this happen?

While family caregivers are providing everything they can for their loved one, they may overlook their own health needs. About 17–35% of family caregivers reported their health as fair to poor. 40–70% of caregivers experience symptoms of depression. When caregivers don’t take the time for themselves to focus on their health and reduce stress, they can get burned out. 

If you’re wondering if you’re burned out, you’ll want to know as soon as possible so you can take the necessary steps to take care of yourself. Keep reading to learn about the symptoms of caregiver burnout and how they might be impacting you. 

What Are the Physical Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout?

When you’re burned out, you may feel physical symptoms that affect your quality of life. Even if you’re experiencing just one of these symptoms, it can indicate you’re in the early stages of burnout. 

Physical symptoms may manifest as: 

  • Stomach aches/headaches
  • Getting sick more frequently
  • Lack of appetite or overeating
  • Poor sleep schedule (can’t sleep/oversleeping)
  • Feeling exhausted 

These can be signs that you need to create space for nutrition, exercise, and a consistent sleep schedule so you can feel energized, rested, and keep your immune system healthy and strong. 

What Are the Mental and Emotional Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout?

Burnout can affect your mental and emotional states as well. These symptoms are often tied to negative thoughts and feelings that can change your mood and how you interact with others. 

  • Feeling hopeless or sad
  • Feeling irritable
  • Sometimes resenting your loved one
  • Feeling guilt over the care you’re providing, or for resenting your loved one

How Can You Alleviate Caregiver Burnout? 

When you’re feeling the weight of caregiver burnout, you can take steps to help relieve some of the symptoms. While these methods may not fix your burnout immediately, you may find that putting these methods into practice can ease your symptoms and help you start your journey on getting out of burnout. 

Meet with a Friend

Sometimes, all you need to do is meet with a trusted friend to talk about how you’re feeling. To have someone hear you and validate how you’re feeling can help you feel less alone. Having space to voice your feelings may also help you feel better. 

Schedule Time for Yourself

As a caregiver, you’ve likely always put your loved one’s needs before your own. It is both okay and essential for you to take care of yourself. This means having time to rest or time where you do all of your favorite things. 

It’s also important to not fall into an “all-or-nothing” mentality. You may think you need to find time to schedule a whole day off–but doing so consistently may be difficult. However, regularly scheduling half days or even a couple of hours to yourself on a regular basis will give you these much-needed breaks. 

Set Realistic Expectations

Set realistic expectations for what you can do and the situation of caring for someone with a progressive disease. Understanding that you can get burnout and need support to provide your loved one with the best care can change your mindset about how caregiving works and can alleviate unnecessary pressure you put on yourself. 

Additionally, you may feel like you’re not doing enough or should have done something different if your loved one’s condition progresses. Unfortunately, these conditions will progress and your loved one’s needs may change. Remember that being there for your loved one and providing support in any way you can is what’s important. 

Overall, you need time to recharge your emotional batteries and take care of your mental health. This could look like taking time to see a therapist, seeking a caregiver support group, or anything where you get to focus on yourself. 

While this is easier said than done for most caregivers, it’s important to remember that taking care of yourself will ultimately benefit you and your loved one. 

What Are the Relational Symptoms of Burnout?

The relational symptoms usually deal with how you feel toward your loved one and how you feel about your situation. These present as:

  • Feeling alone and unsupported
  • Noticing the difficulties in your loved one’s living situation
  • Anxiety about leaving your loved one alone 
  • Grieving how your loved one has changed

Unfortunately, guilt is also tied to these symptoms as well. Acknowledging your feelings and accepting them can be a big first step when dealing with these symptoms. 

What Does Burnout Feel Like on a Personal Level?

Caregiver burnout can cause high stress levels and anxiety to the extent that you may feel like you’ve lost touch with your personal life. You may feel the following: 

  • Loss of interest in your hobbies or favorite activities
  • Withdrawal from family and friends because you don’t have the energy
  • Feeling like you don’t have time for your life outside of caregiving
  • Trouble balancing work and family

Finding alternative care so you can take time for yourself is necessary for your health and happiness. There are plenty of programs that can provide your loved one with safe and engaged care while you run errands, relax, or catch up with friends over dinner. 

Do You Recognize Burnout Symptoms? 

If you’re experiencing a few of these symptoms, you may be at the beginning of the burnout process, but it can progress if you don’t take measures to care for yourself. If you’re experiencing many of these symptoms, you may have been in burnout for a while. 

Whether your burnout is mild or severe, it’s important to look at all the care options available to you and your loved one. Additionally, we recommended seeking advice from your health care professional if you have concerns about your overall physical and mental health.  

Get Peace of Mind With Notre Dame Health Care 

You may want to look at all the benefits of a senior living community. Located in Worcester, MA, our compassionate and experienced staff provides all residents with the best care possible, along with fun social activities on a beautiful campus.

Notre Dame Health Care provides assisted living for older adults so they can live an active and high-quality life, as well as skilled nursing for long term care so they have caring and experienced staff attending to your loved one’s safety and health 24/7. With our respite care services, you can trust that your loved one is in a safe and empathetic environment where their needs will be met with compassion and understanding while you take the time you need to rest and relax. Respite care is offered at both our assisted living community and long term care and rehabilitation center based on availability.

For those at a different chapter in their caregiving journey, we offer a person-centered palliative care program to provide comfort. Should you need it, our hospice team uses a holistic approach to care that will help ease the transition for both the individual and their family. We are here for you during any time in your caregiving experience. 

If you’re struggling with caregiving, call us to learn how Notre Dame Health Care can help care for your loved one