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Preventing Caregiver Burnout

Scaling Back Responsibilities Lowers Risk of Depression
By: CaregiverZone

What is caregiver burnout?

Caregiver burnout or meltdown occurs when caregivers don't get the assistance they need and begin to suffer from stress, anxiety and depression. Finding help - whether from family members and friends or from professional caregivers - will allow you to take some time for yourself and prevent burnout.

Many caregivers experience guilt if they look out for themselves. But seeking to lighten some caregiving burdens is not an act of selfishness. It actually helps the person you care for because you will become a more patient and effective caregiver.

What are the symptoms of burnout?

Not coincidentally, the symptoms of caregiver distress and burnout closely mirror many of the telltale signs of depression. They include:

  • Withdrawing from friends, family and other loved ones

  • No longer participating in activities you enjoy

  • Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless and helpless more often than not

  • Finding yourself getting upset more quickly than normal

  • Noticing changes in appetite, weight or both

  • Noticing changes in sleep patterns

  • Getting sick more often

  • Feeling like you can't take it one more day

  • Fantasizing about escape

  • Feeling you want to hurt the person you are caring for

  • Feeling you want to hurt yourself

Taking time for yourself

Caregivers are often so busy performing their daily tasks they forget to check in with themselves and assess their emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. As hard as it may sound, set aside some time each day to sit in a quiet place and turn your attention toward yourself.

Some people meditate during this time. Others take a walk or retreat to a special place in the home or a favorite cafe or park bench where they feel at peace. Whether you take half an hour or half a day off from your caregiving responsibilities, the time should help clear your mind and refresh your spirit.

Spend a few moments assessing your situation and determine whether it is time to seek more caregiving support. Be honest with yourself. Don't worry yet about how or where you will find the help. Simply make a commitment to relieve yourself of at least some caregiving tasks. Take even small signs of emotional distress seriously. It's best to address the problems before they develop into a crisis.

The extra time you have once you've asked for help will allow you to focus on other interests in your life - interests you may have forgotten about or ones you've been hoping to develop. It will also allow you to spend some time on your other relationships.

All relationships require attention. Caregiving can be incredibly time-consuming, and often the entire family suffers the loss of the caregiver's focus and energy. Reaffirming other relationships can have wonderful, revitalizing results - and will actually enhance your caregiving abilities.

Where to get help

If you are already suffering from stress and depression, or if you want to prevent ending up in this state, these resources can offer you some relief from your caregiving burden:

  • Home health services. These agencies provide homemakers, home health aides and nurses for short-term respite care, whether for a few hours or a few days.

  • Adult day care. These programs offer seniors a place to socialize, engage in a variety of activities and outings and receive needed medical and other services.

  • Nursing homes or assisted living facilities. These institutions sometimes offer short-term respite stays to provide caregivers with a break from their burdens.

  • Private care managers. These professionals specialize in assessing current needs and coordinating care and services.

  • Caregiver support services. Support groups and other programs for caregivers can help you recharge your batteries, meet others coping with similar dilemmas and find out about medical advances, additional resources and other useful information.

© CaregiverZone