Caregiver Burnout: What Is It and How to Avoid It

Couple having a difficult conversation

Have you become the primary caregiver for a parent or family member? When first starting out, you were probably glad to help out in any way you can! It starts with picking up their prescriptions, running errands, or fixing broken items for them in the home, all while trying to juggle your job, family, friends, and physical/mental health.

Gradually, though, these small acts of kindness and care might evolve into something more time-consuming. You may start to leave work early to drive them to appointments, skip your free time to clean their house, or spend every moment that you’re not with them worrying about their safety.

Overall, the responsibilities slowly increase as your family member needs more assistance, but soon it can take up too much of your energy, leading to what is known as caregiver burnout.

At Monarch, we know how hard you work to ensure that your loved ones have their every need met, but we want you to know that it’s okay to take time for yourself, too. Since the world of caregiving can be overwhelming, we have created this guide to help you and your family navigate this journey.

Also, when the time is right and you need help outside of the home to care for your loved one, know that our communities offer compassion-oriented care programs for families in your situation. Take a break and receive peace of mind that your loved one is well cared for at Monarch.

Are You Considered a Family Caregiver?

The common family caregiver is an untrained individual who assists an aging parent or family member. While informal caregivers are most often adult women (typically the individual’s adult daughter), they can also be sons, spouses, grandchildren, friends, or neighbors.

This assistance and support they offer generally focuses on activities of daily living (cooking, dressing, mobility, etc.) or other tasks (cleaning, driving, medication management, etc.).

Family caregivers can range in terms of involvement or commitment. The caregiving experience can be as hands-off as simply offering rides to and from doctor’s appointments or going grocery shopping and helping with meals once a week. Or the caregiver can be very involved, such as providing daily assistance with bathing and grooming or even having their loved one move into their own house to deliver full-time support.

What is Caregiver Burnout?

Eventually, spending all your time and energy caring for an older loved one can cause a state of physical and emotional exhaustion called caregiver burnout. A cause of caregiver burnout is when individuals are so busy caring for others that they neglect their own needs. The demands of caring for your loved one while also keeping up with your everyday responsibilities of work, family, and relationships can take a toll and cause a state of burnout.

Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout:

  • Feeling hopeless or depressed
  • Easily irritated or angry
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Guilt for spending time on yourself
  • A weakened immune system/ getting sick more often
  • Changes in appetite, significant weight gain or loss
  • Withdrawing from family & friends
  • Apathy toward hobbies and activities you used to enjoy
  • Caregiving role confusion
  • A feeling of having a lack of control over your life
  • Mental exhaustion and physical exhaustion

Tips to Avoid Caregiver Burnout

If you are experiencing any of the signs of caregiver burnout, taking care of yourself is vital, not only for your own health but for the well-being of the person in your care. If you are constantly tired, distracted, sick, or irritable, you cannot provide the care and attention that your family member needs. The good news about caregiver burnout is that it can be largely managed and prevented with the proper knowledge and self-awareness.

Tip #1: Set Boundaries

It’s natural to want to help your family member as much as possible; you might even view it as an obligation. But in order to protect your mental health, it’s important to say “no” and mean it. Set healthy boundaries with your family member, letting them know that you are there to help, but you cannot be on-call 24/7. If 24/7 care and support are needed and you are unable to provide it, you have options, including in-home care or an assisted living community.

Tip #2: Take Care of Your Own Physical and Mental Health

Getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, and keeping regular appointments are great ways to increase your energy, relieve caregiver stress, and use self-care to support your physical wellness.

As for your mental health, it is good to have a support system in place. Whether it’s a paid therapist, caregiver support group, partner, sibling, friend, or coworker, having more than one person to talk to can give you a safe space to share your feelings and frustrations.

Tip #3: Delegate Tasks

Nobody has the unrealistic expectation that you will be able to handle everything on your own. When possible, try to share the responsibilities with others to lessen your load. For example, ask your parent’s neighbor to check in on them when you’re out of town, have your kids clean their house for a small allowance, and ask your partner to drive to the doctor’s office when you have a work meeting. You may be surprised at how much people are willing to help if they are asked!

Tip #4: Find Time For Yourself

Even if you feel like you have a good hold on your caregiving responsibilities, your family, and your other obligations, it’s still crucial to spend time doing something you love. Whether it’s game night with friends, a cycling class at the gym, or simply reading a book while taking a bubble bath, finding time for yourself will help you refresh your mind, body, and soul.

Tip #5: Look for Professional Support Outside the Home

Even if you take care of yourself and do everything necessary to prevent caregiver burnout, sometimes, being a caregiver can simply become too much, and support is needed. It’s not uncommon for caregivers to feel guilty that they need help; they might feel like they’ve failed their family or aren’t good enough. The truth is, though, that learning to accept support is the sign of a strong caregiver, one who puts the needs of their family first to ensure they get the best care possible. But how do you know it’s time for support?

Warning Signs That Indicate It’s Time to Look Outside the Home:

  • Your family member’s needs have changed to where they need more professional, dedicated, or medically-focused care
  • Your family member has experienced a serious health problem, like a stroke or a fall
  • Your family member has become depressed or isolated
  • You have noticed a significant decline in your own physical or mental health
  • You are not able to handle your other obligations or commitments

Where to Go for Help with Caregiver Burnout

Caregiving resources and support communities can come in many forms and vary in the level of assistance they provide. For example, nursing homes and assisted living communities offer round-the-clock care. Memory care is also useful for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Meanwhile, other options like part-time help or respite care offer support only when needed. These include adult day care centers for older adults who live with family members that have daytime jobs and family responsibilities. You can also go the route of in-home care agencies, in which visiting health care professionals perform tasks like housekeeping and meal preparation, allowing older adults to remain in the home safely for as long as possible.

For families and friends looking for a brief break from their caregiving duties, respite care can not only be an answer, but their sigh of relief knowing their loved ones are secure and getting cared for with extra attention, 24/7.

Every family is unique. The right type of care for one household might not be the same for another, and that’s okay! What’s important is finding the right solution that suits you and your loved one’s situation.

Come to Monarch For Support!

Here at Monarch, we extend the same hospitality and compassionate care to both our short-term guests and long-term residents. It is an honor and humbling experience to learn who everyone is, including their preferences, daily routes, and personal histories.

By focusing on the entirety of the individual, our staff offers a holistic person-centric approach to caregiving that ensures all respite care recipients and long-term residents receive the care they need with the respect they deserve. In turn, families achieve peace of mind knowing their loved ones are receiving specialized care from a community of compassionate individuals.

So yes, while you or your loved one may be with us for only a short amount of time, every interaction—no matter how big or small—is all about creating genuine connections.

Let us know when you are looking for a long-term option! We would be happy to help you choose the right level of care for your loved one.