Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver burnout, also called caregiver stress syndrome, is being in a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion from caring for a family member. Burnout occurs most often in a family caregiver who has no help with providing care. The characteristics of caregiver burnout include feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. Caregivers may have a sense of hopelessness and can begin to show negative emotions to others around them including irritability, sarcasm, impatience, and harsh language. They can also begin to display these traits to the loved one for whom they are providing care.


Negative Impacts


According to the Centers for Disease Control, family caregivers experience:

  • Elevated levels of depression and anxiety
  • Higher use of psychoactive medications
  • Worse self-reported physical health
  • Compromised immune function
  • Increased risk of early death


Over half (53%) of caregivers indicate that a decline in their health compromises their ability to provide care. Furthermore, caregivers and their families often experience economic hardships through lost wages and additional medical expenses. In 2009, approximately 25% of caregivers of adults reported a moderate to high degree of financial hardship as a result of caregiving.


How to Manage Caregiver Stress


According to the National Institutes of Health (2015) a total of about 43 million U.S. adults provide unpaid care for someone with a serious health condition each year. This care comes in many different forms. You may be a full-time caregiver for a parent/spouse who lives with you or you may be the primary person responsible for the medical, social, and general needs of an elderly parent who lives alone. Both situations are inherently stressful situations. Following are some suggestions to help cope with stress:

  • Seek and accept help. Don’t be reluctant to ask friends or other family members for help. Furthermore, be specific in your requests so others will know what is expected of them. Some examples: “Can you come over and sit with my mom next Tuesday morning from 9 – 11 so I can make a hair appointment?” Or, “Can you be with dad every other Wednesday from 1 – 4 so I can take some time off to run personal errands.”
  • Hire a paid caregiver. Hire a home health aide or caregiver/personal assistant a few hours a week to give yourself a break. The average cost of home health is $15 to $25 per hour depending on location. Check with friends for a reference, ask around a parent’s assisted living facility for recommendations, or go through a home health care agency.
  • Use respite care. Respite care offers a temporary place for people with chronic medical conditions to stay (usually for a few days/weeks.) Respite care offers an option for the usual caregiver to rest, take care of personal business, or travel. Many assisted living/skilled care facilities offer respite care.
  • Take care of yourself. If you don’t take care of your own mental and physical health then you can’t take care of a loved one. Exercise several times a week by either going to the gym or taking a walk. Keep a weekly tennis match or golf game. Get a good night’s rest, eat nutritious meals, and keep up with your own health by not missing doctor’s appointments.
  • Find a support group. Only other caregivers can truly understand what you are going through. A support group can provide encouragement and solace as a safe place to confidentially discuss and vent your feelings. Check online for a local group in your area.
  • Consider skilled care. Many caregivers (especially spouses) say they will always care for a loved one at home. However, many dementia patients have strong hearts and lungs. Therefore, they can and often do live for several years as their dementia progresses making your role as a caregiver increasingly difficult and burdensome. Consider moving your loved one into a skilled care or memory care facility. These facilities have the experience and the expertise to deal with the special needs of people with dementia, or other long-term serious chronic illnesses.



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