Caregiver burnout refers to a state of complete exhaustion–physical and mental–and may occur when caregiver stress is left unchecked. Signs of caregiver burnout may include constant fatigue, more frequent sickness, and disregard for personal needs.1 Compassion fatigue, or the stress resulting from taking on the pain of the person being cared for, can also contribute to burnout. Compassion fatigue may lead to a lack of empathy for others’ feelings or pain, decreasing a caregiver’s ability to effectively take care of others.2 If you or someone you know is caring for a family member, look for strategies to manage and decrease stress to prevent caregiver burnout. It’s just as important that a caregiver take care of themselves as the person they care for. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Strategies to help avoid caregiver burnout:
- Accept your decision. Focus on the positives of your caregiving to practice acceptance. What are the pros of your caregiving choice? How has caregiving benefited you and your relationships?
- Control what you can. Many things are out of your control. Recognize what you have control over and concentrate your efforts there.
- Feel appreciated. Celebrate your own actions or share them with friends or family members who support you. Feeling appreciated improves your happiness and health.
- Ask for help and relief. It’s critical to take breaks from caregiving. Breaks can re-energize you and give you a chance for self-care activities. If a friend or family member offers to help, let them. If you need a break, reach out to someone.
- Practice self-care. Take care of yourself by eating well, sleeping, engaging in physical activity, and maintaining social connections.
- Find support. Look for an online or local support group. Ask a friend or family member to check in on you every week.
If you know a caregiver, show them appreciation and see how you can support them. If you are a caregiver, you are doing great work. Take care of yourself and ask for help when you need it. Check out the Family Caregiver Toolbox for more resources.
- Smith, M. Caregiver stress and burnout. Helpguide.org. Updated February 24, 2023. Accessed April 5, 2023. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/caregiver-stress-and-burnout.htm
- Clay, RA. Are you experiencing compassion fatigue? American Psychological Association. Updated July 11, 2022. Accessed April 7, 2023. https://www.apa.org/topics/covid-19/compassion-fatigue
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