08 November 2022

Carer Fatigue & Burnout: The Signs & Symptoms

8 min read

A caregiver is anyone who provides help to another person in need, such as an ill spouse or partner, a disabled child, or an aging relative. However, family members who are actively caring for an older adult often don't self-identify as a caregiver. Recognizing this role can help caregivers receive the support they need. And support can come in many forms, which we will discuss. One issue though, that often isn’t discussed, is carer burnout or fatigue.

What is carer fatigue?

Caregiver fatigue/burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. Stressed caregivers may experience burnout, anxiety and depression. Some ways to prevent burnout include joining a caregiver support group and using respite care services.

As a caregiver, you may be so focused on your loved one that you don't realize that your own health and well-being are suffering. Watch for these signs of caregiver stress:

• Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
• Feeling tired often
• Getting too much sleep or not enough sleep
• Gaining or losing weight
• Becoming easily irritated or angry
• Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
• Feeling sad
• Having frequent headaches, bodily pain, or other physical problems
• Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications
• Neglecting your own physical and emotional needs
• Feelings of hopelessness

As a caregiver, you may experience a great deal of stress over a large period of time and this can harm your health, additionally, you're more likely to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety. You may also not be getting enough sleep or physical activity or eating a balanced diet — which increases your risk of medical problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.

The caregiver who works outside the home

Nearly 60% of caregivers work outside of the home. If you work outside the home and you're a caregiver, you may begin to feel overwhelmed. If you do, think about taking leave from your job for a period of time.

Employees covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act may be able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year to care for relatives. Ask your human resources office about options for unpaid leave.

Strategies for dealing with the fatigue and stress of being a carer

The emotional and physical demands involved with caregiving can strain even the most resilient person. That's why it's so important to take advantage of the many resources and tools available to help you provide care for your loved one. Remember, if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to care of anyone else.

To help manage caregiver stress:

• Accept help. Be prepared with a list of ways that others can help you and let the helper choose what he or she would like to do. For instance, a friend may offer to take the person you care for on a walk a couple of times a week. Or a friend or family member may be able to run an errand, pick up your groceries or cook for you.
Focus on what you are able to provide. It's normal to feel guilty sometimes but understand that no one is a "perfect" caregiver. Believe that you are doing the best you can and making the best decisions you can at any given time.
Set realistic goals. Break large tasks into smaller steps that you can do one at a time. Prioritize, make lists and establish a daily routine. Begin to say no to requests that are draining, such as hosting holiday meals.
Get connected. Find out about caregiving resources in your community. Many communities have classes specifically about the disease your loved one is facing. Caregiving services such as transportation, meal delivery or housekeeping may be available.
Join a support group. A support group can provide validation and encouragement, as well as problem-solving strategies for difficult situations. People in support groups understand what you may be going through. A support group can also be a good place to create meaningful friendships.
Seek social support. Try to stay well-connected with family and friends who can offer nonjudgmental emotional support. Set aside time each week for connecting, even if it's just a walk with a friend.
Set personal health goals. For example, set goals to establish a good sleep routine, find time to be physically active on most days of the week, eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water.
Many caregivers have issues with sleeping. Not getting quality sleep over a long period of time can cause health issues. If you have trouble getting a good night's sleep, talk to your doctor.
See your doctor. Get recommended vaccinations and screenings. Make sure to tell your doctor that you're a caregiver. Don't hesitate to mention any concerns or symptoms you have.

Respite care

It may be hard to imagine leaving your loved one in someone else's care but taking a break can be one of the best things you do for yourself — as well as the person you're caring for. Most communities have some type of respite care available, such as:

In-home respite. Health care aides come to your home to provide companionship, nursing services or both.
Adult care centers and programs. Some centers provide care for both older adults and young children and the two groups may spend time together.
Aged Care Residences. Respite care at an aged care residence provides the opportunity to have your loved one cared for in a safe and supportive environment. You’ll have peace of mind that they are being cared for by an experienced and compassionate team, with experienced clinicians, carers and hospitality teams, all looking after the physical and social wellbeing of your loved one.

Estia Health has respite care available to help you. This can be short or long term. Call us today to find out more and about how we can help. You can find out more here about respite care, long term care and our homes.

You’re not alone.

If you're like many caregivers, you have a hard time asking for help. Unfortunately, this attitude can lead to feeling isolated, frustrated and even depressed.

At Estia Health, we are here to help you.