Top 5 Signs of Caregiver Burnout (And What Can Help)

Date Published: November 5, 2021
Elderly woman and young women smiling

Caregiver burnout is defined as a state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion as a result of caregiving. Caregivers often place the care of their loved ones over their own needs and therefore can neglect themselves.

According to the Pew Research Center, over 40 million adults in America are taking care of an elderly, chronically ill, or disabled loved one. Over 30 percent of those caregivers describe their experiences as stressful.

Burnout is a serious psychological condition that is accompanied by symptoms of equal magnitude.

There are several reasons caregiver burnout can occur. These include unreasonable demands, lack of control, role confusion and unrealistic expectations.

Unreasonable demands arise from taking on too much and feeling as though caring for a loved one is your job and your job alone. Often times, caregivers aren’t given the support they need – as caring for a high-needs person can be taxing and time consuming.

Caregivers can feel a lack of control in their lives when their loved one’s care schedule is dictating their life. Another frustration comes from a lack of resources, such as money, time, or skill. Feeling like you’re not doing enough, or well of enough job, can cause a caregiver to spiral.

If you are caring for a loved one, it can be hard to separate that role from the rest of your relationships such as spouse, parent, or friend. This causes confusion and frustration from the caregiver and their loved ones.

Of course, a caregiver would want positive results from their care and a boost in health and happiness in the one they care for. If your loved one has a progressive disease, these expectations can be unrealistic which causes frustration and feelings of despair from the caregiver.

There are plenty of other things that can cause caregiver burnout and each circumstance is unique.

Are you concerned you or someone you love is experiencing caregiver burnout? Read the list of signs below and what can help them.

Top Five Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout

  1. There are changes in your lifestyle, such as loss of appetite or irregular sleep patterns.
  2. Your mental health is declining which could look like an increase in anxiety or feeling higher levels of depression.
  3. Often times, you skip steps of your loved one’s care that are important because they are too difficult to complete.
  4. You feel more irritated. Your patience is often worn thin and you can snap easily at loved ones.
  5. You are getting sick more often and your immune system feels weaker.


What can help:

There are plenty of ways to help alleviate stress that is caused by caregiving. It’s important to remember that if you don’t take care of yourself, you will not be able to take care of someone else.

Here are some tips:

  • Focus on what you’re capable of providing. Accept that no one can be a ‘perfect’ caregiver. It is more than normal to feel guilty about your level of caregiving. Believe that you are doing the best you can with what resources you have and that you are making the best decisions based on those resources.
  • Look for support groups. Browse the internet to see if your community offers a support group for caregivers or tap into the virtual nation-wide resources. Support groups can help you feel validated and seen. You’ll be able to see that other caregivers have similar obstacles, and you can learn from how they made decisions in their unique situation. Moreover, it can be a great place to develop meaningful friendships.
  • Set health goals for yourself. It is very important to maintain a healthy lifestyle if you’re a caregiver. This can include setting goals for hours of sleep each night, finding time to be physically active and eating a healthy diet. Setting these parameters for yourself and prioritizing your health will help you provide care to a loved one.
  • Prioritize accepting help. It is vital to accept help from others when you are a caregiver. Have a list of ways, no matter how big or small, people can help you. Then, let the helper choose which task they would like to assist with. This could be a sibling running to the grocery store for you or a friend caring for your loved one while you exercise.
  • Set aside time to be social. Everybody needs social time in their weeks. So set aside a time or two to see a friend for family member who can offer you support without judgement. This can be as simple as going for a walk or as planned as a weekend getaway.

If you or your loved one are concerned about or experiencing caregiver burnout, please reach out to us. Our team of therapists is here to provide support and guidance. We look forward to connecting with you.