The Signs and Causes of Caregiver Burnout

elderly women in wheelchair with nurse

By: Ellen Platt at The Option Group

Being a caregiver is incredibly demanding, and not just physically. Many caregivers experience caregiver burnout, or a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion that is often accompanied by a change in attitude. Burnout can occur when a caregiver is not getting adequate support or when they are going beyond their physical, financial or emotional abilities to provide care. What are the symptoms of caregiver burnout?


11 Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout 

Because the symptoms of caregiver burnout are so similar to symptoms for other conditions like exhaustion, stress and depression, it’s important that you speak with your doctor as soon as possible. The most common symptoms of caregiver burnout include:

  1. Withdrawal from family and friends
  2. Feeling helpless or hopeless
  3. Losing interest in activities and hobbies that you used to enjoy
  4. Feeling irritable
  5. Persistent sadness
  6. Changes in your sleep patterns
  7. Changes in your appetite or weight (increasing or decreasing)
  8. Getting sick more often or more easily
  9. Emotional or physical exhaustion
  10. Feeling like you want to hurt the person you are caring for or yourself
  11. Using sleep medications or alcohol excessively

 The causes of caregiver burnout are varied, and include:

  • Role confusion between being a caregiver and a spouse, child, friend or parent
  • Lack of control over resources, money or medical outcomes
  • Unrealistic expectations for the caregiving situation
  • Not realizing the signs early enough and letting things get even worse
  • Unreasonable burdens or demands placed upon them by themselves, family, friends or the person being taken care of

Preventing Caregiver Burnout

  • Talk with someone that you trust who is not directly involved in the life of the person you are caretaking to talk about your feelings, whether it’s a friend or a mental health professional.
  • Set realistic goals for your role as a caregiver and realize that you will need to delegate some tasks and appointments.
  • Know what your limits are and when you’ve reached them. Don’t think that you are “too smart” or “too aware” to avoid the potential for caregiver burnout. Instead, regularly assess yourself for the signs.
  • Practice healthy coping mechanisms like exercising or cooking instead of things with a high potential for abuse like alcohol.
  • Make sure that you are getting enough sleep every night.
  • Acknowledge that your feelings are valid and that negative feelings like anger and frustration are normal. Furthermore, you are not alone. There are many caregiver support groups that can help you to speak with other people in similar situations.