Caregiver burnout is when a caregiver feels emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted. Not to be confused with being tired, which can usually be resolved with rest, caregiver burnout is typically the result of long-term stress and self-neglect.

When all your energy and time are focused on someone else’s well-being, there’s a good chance your needs are neglected, which can lead to emotional fatigue and burnout. This dilemma often happens to caregivers, especially those who care for a sick family member or loved one.

Common Signs of Caregiver Burnout

The signs of caregiver burnout can look different for each person. Some may experience short bouts of burnout while for others, it may last longer, with more difficult symptoms.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of caregiver burnout:

  • Feeling lethargic
  • Increased stress and anxiety
  • Feeling hopeless and depressed
  • Being easily angered and irritated
  • Experiencing brain fog or lack of clarity
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Restlessness
  • Having negative feelings

What Is the Caregiver Burden?

Caregiver burden describes the physical, emotional, financial, and psychological challenges a caregiver faces. It is the load that an informal caregiver may carry as they are taking care of their loved one or relative.

Although the challenges of caregiving may also be present in professional caregivers, it is most applicable to informal caregivers, or family caregivers because they generally don’t have caregiving training, are rarely compensated for their labor, and may not have the proper resources for support.

Examples of Caregiver Burden

Some examples of caregiver burden are:

  • Physical burden – the physical stress from performing the labor of caregiving duties
  • Emotional burden – the psychological impact of caring for a patient or a sick family member
  • Social burden – the ramifications of not having enough time for one’s social life and being socially isolated
  • Financial burden – the financial impact of caring for a loved one

Caregiver Burden Statistics

According to Caregiver.org, about 40% of caregivers experience high-burden roles, 18% have medium burden, and 41% experience low burden. Hispanic and African-American caregivers typically experience higher burdens than their White and Asian-American counterparts. Female caregivers also carry more burdens than male caregivers.

What Is Caregiver Fatigue Syndrome?

Over time, when a caregiver is experiencing too much stress, caregiver fatigue can happen. This is a state of physical, mental, and psychological exhaustion when the individual has reached their limit. It is important to identify caregiver fatigue syndrome symptoms early in order to put plans in place to give the caregiver a reprieve.

Preventing Caregiver Burnout

To prevent reaching the point of caregiver burnout or caregiver fatigue, it is crucial that caregivers must not neglect their own needs. There are simple ways you can do to ensure that your mind and body are receiving the proper care while you are caring for others.

  • Ask for help when you need to. Lighten your load by reaching out for help from people you trust. Hire someone to help you clean or ask a family member to run simple errands.
  • Talk to someone. If you feel emotionally drained, sharing your feelings can help relieve the stress. Make sure to open up to people you trust, like a close friend, a loved one, or a therapist.
  • Practice self-care. Regularly treat yourself to self-care days. When you are physically and mentally fulfilled, you will be more motivated, forgiving, and empathetic toward your loved one.
  • Get enough rest. Your body needs to recuperate, especially when you are working long days. Take a step back to relax and rest when you feel like you are drowning in responsibilities.
  • Seek out a caregiver support group. Support groups allow caregivers to share frustrations, gather ideas, and brainstorm with other people faced with the same challenges of caregiving.

What is a Caregiver Support Group?

A caregiver support group is a safe place for caregivers to discuss their problems and ask for help. The main purpose of support groups is to provide advice and resources to help caregivers manage their stress and improve their coping skills.

For example, there are caregiver support groups specifically for people who are caring for a loved one with dementia.

How Do I Find a Caregiver Support Group Near Me?

With a quick Google search, you can easily find caregiver support groups in your area. There are in-person groups that can offer valuable help and resources for caregivers.

There are also many online communities where you can get advice and support for free. If you are a Facebook user, search for Facebook groups in your local area or even support groups for specific illnesses.

Online Resources for Family Caregivers

You can find resources for family caregivers on these sites:

How Can I Support Caregivers Experiencing Burnout?

If you want to show your appreciation and support for a family caregiver you know, there are several things you can do.

  • Verbalize your support. Let them know that you are there to help. Give them a call or text and offer assistance.
  • Lend a listening ear. Having someone to vent to can ease the emotional burden caregivers experience. Schedule a day to have a one-on-one conversation and listen to their challenges, stories, and complaints.
  • Acknowledge their hard work. Most of the time family caregivers do not get the acknowledgment and praise that they deserve. Let them know that their work is valued, meaningful, and appreciated.
  • Help out when you can. Extend your support by helping out when you can. Running simple errands, dropping off meals, or even providing extra cash can help a caregiver feel supported.

In Summary

Caregiver burnout is a serious concern for all types of caregivers. Burnout happens when a caregiver is emotionally, mentally, or physically drained from caring for another person.

  • Common signs of caregiver burnout are mood swings, lethargy, and withdrawal.
  • Caregiver burden describes the physical, emotional, social, and financial weight a caregiver carries and how much it affects them personally.
  • In order to prevent caregiver burnout, it’s important to ask for help, share your frustrations, prioritize self-care, get plenty of rest, and seek out a caregiver support group.
  • Caregiver support groups are available in-person and online, find one that fits your schedule. Many disease-specific support groups are available online.
  • Support caregivers around you by letting them know you are available to help with tasks, listen to frustrations, and assist financially if you can.

Caregiver Burnout Frequently Asked Questions

Why is caregiver burden important?

Educating yourself about caregiver burden will greatly help in understanding the impact it has on the life of a caregiver. This helps you better cope with the challenges of the caregiving role, allows for preparation, and burnout prevention.

Why is being a caregiver hard on your health?

Because of the tough demands of the job, it can be difficult for both the physical and mental health of the caregiver. It is important to take regular breaks, ask for help, and seek out support to avoid burnout and fatigue.

What should you not say to a caregiver?

“You look really tired”, “You shouldn’t be sacrificing so much,” and “Why don’t you get out more?” are a few statements you should never say to a caregiver. Instead, offer help, a listening ear, and even financial assistance if it seems appropriate.

What are the signs of caregiver stress?

Irritability, increased anxiety, isolation, depression, and feelings of resentment are just some of the symptoms of caregiver stress. Stress can also manifest physically, with symptoms like headaches, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, joint pain, constipation, and more.

An expert in senior care, Amie has professional and personal experience in senior housing, caregiving, end-of-life care, and more from her 24 years of working with older adults.