Family Caregivers: Just How Burnt Out Are You?

A senior living caregiver and resident are holding hands and smiling

Being a family caregiver is a rewarding experience because you have the power to support your senior loved one and improve their quality of life. You’ll also face new responsibilities and challenges, as well, potentially including caregiver burnout. 

When you have the right support, caregiving is a rewarding experience where you provide effective and attentive care for your loved one. Let’s explore signs of caregiver burnout to look out for, as well as the essential resources you can use to be your best every day for your loved one.


Signs of Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver burnout, sometimes called caregiver fatigue, refers to a set of symptoms caused by the emotional and physical stresses of caregiving. Both professional and family caregivers can end up with caregiver burnout, but it tends to be more common among family caregivers. Here are a few questions to periodically ask yourself to ensure you are catching symptoms of caregiver burnout before they escalate.

Am I having trouble sleeping?

Caregiver burnout creeps in slowly over time. If you are noticing changes in sleep patterns, whether you are sleeping more or having trouble falling asleep, you could be in the early stages of caregiver burnout.

If you notice you are having trouble sleeping, take time to create a consistent bedtime routine. Your body will respond to sleep better when it knows the routine that leads up to it. Try putting your phone or tablet down at least 30 minutes before bed, and then engage in a consistent, personalized routine that meets your own nighttime needs and preferences. 

Is my physician aware of my caregiver role?

Keeping up with annual checkups and preventative care for yourself is a key component of avoiding caregiver burnout. Be sure you are not only keeping your preventative care appointments but also talking to your physician about your family caregiver role. Your physician needs to know about this life event so they can offer guidance to keep your own mental and physical health a top priority. They may also be able to advise on caregiver resources in your area, such as support groups.


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Am I avoiding my friends?

Maybe you have noticed that you are more likely to cancel dinner plans with your friends or skip out on work socials. You might feel too tired to attend, or you might be avoiding them because you are losing interest, which could be a sign of depression.

If you’re avoiding social situations, try to reestablish connections with friends and colleagues by keeping up with text messages. Or, respond “yes” to an invite with the promise to yourself that you only have to stay for an hour. Then, you can reevaluate it to see if you feel up to staying a bit longer.

Am I irritable?

Of course, everyone gets irritable from time to time. However, those experiencing caregiver burnout can find themselves growing irritable more often than not due to the extra stress they are experiencing. If your partner, friends, or children have commented on your grouchy mood more frequently than usual, you might be experiencing caregiver burnout.

To help with feelings of irritability, try deep breathing throughout the day. Breathe in for four seconds, then breathe out for another four seconds. Many people also turn to meditation apps to destress and reset their minds. You’ll be surprised by how a few moments of intentional breathing or meditation can help your mood and energize your coping skills.

Am I coping in a healthy way?

We all have different coping skills that help us pull through times of stress. However, unhealthy coping habits, such as overusing alcohol or drugs, can increase the risk of caregiver burnout and health problems. Are you drinking more than usual or using another unhealthy coping habit? It’s time to ask for help from your physician and family.

Am I getting sick more often?

Those experiencing caregiver burnout may have a decreased immune system response. This means that if you are noticing you are getting sick more often and for longer periods of time, you could be in the middle of burnout. If you are feeling sick more often, try boosting your immune system by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, eating a varied and healthy diet, and incorporating exercise into your daily routine.

How to Get the Support You Deserve

Family caregivers are often so focused on helping others that they forget about their own emotional and physical health. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help. After all, you need to take care of your own needs in order to be the best you can be for your loved one. Some things you can do to get the support you deserve include the following.

Ask for family assistance.

Family caregiving can feel like a lonely task, but all too often, siblings or other family members simply don’t know how to help. Try to send out a monthly email outlining tasks with which you could use some assistance so that your siblings and others in your support system can sign up to help you tackle them.

Sign up for delivery services such as pharmacy delivery, GrubHub, and Instacart.

The more you can find ways to make your caregiving time more effective, the more you can find time to rest. With plenty of affordable delivery services available these days, try outsourcing some of your regular tasks. 

For example, delivery services can pick up your loved one’s prescriptions or deliver their favorite meal while saving you the stress of the grocery store parking lot. Although these services may charge a small fee, it’s often worth the cost to make your life easier. Additionally, be sure to check with local agencies and senior organizations that might provide these services for free.

Explore other community services that can assist your loved one, such as senior transportation services.

Your loved one may live in a place where senior services can step in to provide support. Call the local senior services department to inquire about senior transportation services, medical equipment rentals, or other services that could help your loved one and yourself.

Schedule respite care services.

Finally, make sure you are scheduling time to rest at least monthly. Respite services are designed to give caregivers a break, so take advantage of them. Respite care can be something as simple as your sibling sitting with your loved one for a few hours while you go out to lunch with a friend.

Learn more about the benefits of a senior living community for your loved one.

A senior living community can be an optimal solution for your loved one—and for yourself. Today’s senior living communities don’t just take care of your parent or loved one’s physical needs. They provide a community of friends and caring staff, tons of amenities and enriching activities, and an environment that lifts both you and your loved one from struggling to thriving. 

You may be delaying a decision that can improve your health and your loved one’s health. Start the senior living conversation with your parent or loved one—you might be surprised by how well it goes. 

Learn more about senior living options and how they balance support and independence with our guide Understanding Senior Living Lifestyle Options.

Interested in Learning More About Senior Living?

Is it the right time for senior living? Find out more about your and your loved one’s options, ask questions, and experience a Cedarhurst Senior Living community in person. Request information today to understand your options.

Have questions about senior living lifestyle options?

*Originally published December 2021. Updated August 2023.

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