Healthy America

Recognizing and Preventing Caregiver Burnout

The Role of Family Caregivers

At nearly 35 million strong, family caregivers are the nation’s largest unpaid work force. Caregivers for aging parents in particular, are unsung heroes– tasked with providing meaningful relief and doing their best to give these “patients” the fullest lives possible, they often sacrifice huge parts of their own lives in the process. It’s never easy to take on such a huge responsibility while putting your own needs on the back burner, but these incredibly strong people devote time and energy to helping family in need and giving them the best loving care possible.

Staying Strong and Avoiding Burnout

It’s common for family caregivers to find their duties rewarding, but also become exhausted and stressed over time, especially if the demands are heavy. Many are handling caregiving roles on top of other obligations like work and family schedules, and begin to feel guilty or depressed as their stamina dwindles. If you aren’t receiving the support you need, the stress of caregiving can leave you vulnerable to problems such as depression and anxiety—leading to both you and your loved one suffering. That’s why managing the stress in your life is just as important as making sure your loved one attends their doctor’s appointment or takes their medication.

Joining a support group may help relieve some of the stress you face daily. A caregiver support group can provide you with a healthy way to share your troubles with others who go through similar experiences each day. If you can’t leave the house, online support groups also exist. Most importantly, being part of a support group serves as a reminder that you are not alone.

Respite care may also provide you with some much-needed relief if the stress of caregiving becomes too much. Enlist friends and family who live nearby to run errands, bring a meal over, or spend time with your loved one so you can take a well-deserved break. In-home services can also be provided by volunteers or paid help, some even available on a regular basis. You can also explore out-of-home respite programs like nursing homes or adult daycare centers.

If the stress of caregiving is still too heavy of a burden for you to carry on your own, spread the responsibility. Try to get as many family members or trusted friends involved as possible, and divide up caregiving tasks—for example: one person can take care of medical responsibilities, another with finances and bills, and another with errands and groceries. Taking on all of the responsibilities of caregiving without any breaks or assistance is a recipe for burnout, don’t try to do it all alone. Sharing responsibility is one simple way to lighten the load and give your life more balance.

For more information on caregiver resources, support networks, and options for family caregivers, you can contact these organizations:

Caregiver Action Network

Family Caregiver Alliance

Caregiver Resource Network

Being a family caregiver may be challenging, but you are not alone.

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Read more articles by Eileen MacNalich

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