In addition to advocating for the needs of our clients, the Rothkoff Care Coordination team often addresses the need of the caregiver with whom we communicate, including the impact of caregiver burnout. A caregiver is typically a spouse or adult child who is assisting with tasks ranging from meal preparation and medication management to physically assisting their loved one with activities of daily living, including bathing, dressing, and grooming. Sometimes caregiving simply involves concern over the aging loved one’s wellbeing and checking to make sure this loved one is okay. Caregivers provide this support out of love, respect, and a sense of duty, but the physical toll and mental stress caregiving have on the caregiver are often underestimated. It is important to identify and address the risks of ‘caregiver burnout.’

Caregiver burnout and stress can result in feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried, feeling tired often, sleeping too little or too much, becoming easily irritated, and losing interest in common activities one used to enjoy. It may result in physical changes, including weight changes, physical pains in the body, or developing new ‘unhealthy’ behaviors like smoking or drinking too much.

Most people involved in a caregiving relationship will not admit the level of stress involved; however, almost everyone who works with older adults can identify the signs of caregiver stress. For those in a caregiving relationship, it is critical to recognize stress and burnout before they become problematic and develop strategies to combat this stress. What many caregivers do not realize is that if they burn out, then they will not be able to provide proper care and support to their loved ones.

Some helpful tips include:

  1. Get the rest you need and deserve! Be sure to get adequate sleep and ‘you time.’ Make the time to exercise, meditate, or do tasks that bring you joy outside of your role as a caregiver.
  2. Ask for help. It is okay to reach out for help before you get overwhelmed and burnt out. Remember, you deserve a break too. This can be through friends, family, or professionals like a respite in a senior living environment or companion care through a home health agency.
  3. Join a support group or seek one-on-one support. It may be helpful to know you are not alone in what you are going through. Support groups can help you learn from others in similar situations. One-on-one counseling or therapy can help manage how you are feeling.

If you are caring for a patient or loved one, recognizing the signs of burnout and taking the appropriate steps to give back to yourself will help you provide better care. After all, it’s hard to care for someone else if you don’t first take care of yourself.