Caregiver burnout can be measured using specialized tools and techniques. These are designed to identify the level of caregiver stress an individual is facing. Having the proper tools to understand the severity of burnout can help prevent complete exhaustion, giving care professionals the proper attention and treatment they deserve.
- Understanding Caregiver Burnout: What It Is and Why It Matters
- Assessing the Severity of Caregiver Burnout
- Using the Results To Inform Caregiving Strategies and Prevent Burnout
Understanding Caregiver Burnout: What It Is and Why It Matters
Caregiving is not an easy job. Whether you are a professional caregiver or a family caregiver, you are bound to experience stress because of the never-ending demands that come with providing care. If left unchecked, this can lead to caregiver burnout – a state of complete emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion.
When a caregiver has reached the point of burnout, fulfilling tasks become extra difficult. Mental health is negatively affected and anxiety settles in. This can also pose a danger to the person being cared for. A caregiver who is feeling unstable may feel anger and resentment. This makes it hard for them to provide the best care to their loved ones.
Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout
There are sure warning signs to look out for to help identify if a caregiver needs to step back and rest. Some of the most common signs of caregiver burnout are:
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Lack of energy
- Increased anxiety and irritability
- Feeling increasingly resentful
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Feeling helpless and hopeless
- Drinking, smoking, or eating more
- Headaches, stomachaches, and other physical problems
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing from interests and activities
- Withdrawing from friends and loved ones
Assessing the Severity of Caregiver Burnout
Medical professionals use a caregiver burnout scale to better understand the emotional state of a caregiver. They need to assess the severity of burnout the caregiver is experiencing to be able to provide the best kind of treatment for them. This is typically done through diagnostic tools and standardized questionnaires designed to evaluate and understand the carer’s feelings, conflicts, and coping abilities.
There are self-assessment tools and techniques that can measure caregiver burnout. The Caregiver Strain Index and the Maslach Burnout Inventory listed below are a couple of the most commonly used caregiver burnout tests to calculate the extent of stress an individual is experiencing.
The Caregiver Strain Index
The Caregiver Strain Index is a screening instrument that identifies the level of strain a carer is experiencing. This can be used for a family caregiver or professional caregiver at any age. It is made up of 13 questions that are answerable with a “Yes” or “No”. Questions revolve around each of the following areas: physical, financial, psychological, and personal.
A similar tool, the Modified Caregiver Strain Index, features similar questions with a slightly different scoring system.
Higher scores indicate a greater stress level and are advised to seek caregiver counseling support.
The Maslach Burnout Inventory
The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) is another psychological assessment that measures occupational burnout. It is a widely used caregiver burnout assessment that is easily available for anyone who needs it. The questionnaire assesses three dimensions of burnout; emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment.
The assessment has a total of 22 questions, divided into three different sections. Each question is scored from 0 to 6 and will be added up to measure the results. Those who get 17 or less have low-level burnout, 18-29 points have moderate burnout, and 30 points or more have high-level burnout.
The assessment should not be considered a scientific diagnostic technique. It is merely a helpful tool to make you aware of your risk for burnout. This questionnaire can be completed in 10 minutes and can be done yourself.
Combining Self-report Measures and Observation To Assess Caregiver Burnout
Another way of measuring burnout levels is through self-reporting and observation. Caregivers can observe their own behaviors, as well as the changes in their habits, to assess the severity of their stress. Sharing the results with the caregiver’s physician ensures that appropriate recommendations are made by a medical professional.
You will need to have a high level of self-awareness and be completely honest with yourself to get the best results. This method can effectively help caregivers look at their own behaviors. In turn, this leads to improved communication and relationship between the caregiver and their loved one.
Interpreting the Results of a Caregiver Burnout Assessment
Interpreting the results of a caregiver burnout assessment should be straightforward. Most questionnaires will come with a simple scale and description of how to measure the results. Assessments are usually score-based, with corresponding points that indicate how high or low one is on the scale. For those who score in the higher ranges, it’s recommended to seek therapy or take steps to lower their caregiving stress (easier said than done!)
Using the Results To Inform Caregiving Strategies and Prevent Burnout
Preventative measures are essential to staving off burnout and maintaining a well-balanced life. Keep in mind that your self-assessment results don’t need to be severe for you to make healthy changes.
Here are some effective strategies to help prevent burnout:
- Take regular breaks from your caregiving duty. Even a quick 5-10 minutes to yourself during demanding times will be beneficial.
- Make time to engage in an activity or hobby that you enjoy.
- Ask for help from friends and/or loved ones.
- Share your feelings if you become overwhelmed.
- Take care of your physical needs. Go for a walk or hike. If there are Meetups in your area for outdoor group activities, see if any pique your interest.
- Check-in regularly with a caregiver burnout checklist or assessment tool to assess your stress levels.
- Consider hiring respite care to help temporarily relieve you of your duties.
Stress in caregiving is inevitable but caregiver burnout is preventable. Before reaching the point of exhaustion, it is essential to use preventative measures to protect your mental health. Utilizing tools such as the Caregiver Strain Index and MBI are just the first steps to avoiding burnout and fatigue. Practicing work-life balance, regular and frequent breaks, and therapy are all helpful to reduce caregiver stress.
Frequently Asked Questions
Caregiver burnout is a state of exhaustion that can cause extreme distress and depression. Awareness about your stress level helps prevent burnout, you can take preventative measures before your mental health worsens.
Some of the most common signs of caregiver burnout include increased anxiety, insomnia, irritability, feelings of resentment, and overwhelming fatigue.
The Caregiver Strain Index and Maslach Burnout Inventory are two of the most popular caregiver burnout questionnaires used to measure the stress levels of care providers. These self-assessment tools are easily accessible online and can be done in a few minutes.
Caregiver assessments are typically measured by a numeric scoring system and will come with a scale for reference. Those who score higher on the scale indicate a higher level of stress and may need to seek therapy or caregiver counseling.
How can the results of a caregiver burnout assessment be used to prevent burnout and improve caregiving?
Regularly checking in on where you fall on the scale can help you become more aware of your mental health. If you find yourself getting a higher score as time goes on, take some time to step back from your duties. Making sure you rest before you reach the point of burnout will give you the mental strength and energy to be a better caregiver.
Self-assessment tools are easy to use and are available to download for free online. While these questionnaires are effective in measuring caregiver burden and stress levels, they are not to be considered a scientific diagnostic tool, unless you are being evaluated by a physician.
Amie Clark, BSW
Aging Advocate and Senior Care Expert
Amie has worked with older adults and their families for the past twenty-plus years of her career. Her senior care knowledge is based on her experience as a social worker, family caregiver, and senior care consultant. Learn more about Amie here.