How to avoid caregiver burnout

Although caring for an aging loved one is a selfless act that demonstrates love, dedication and patience, the responsibility can become overwhelming and stressful at times, and when combined with other familial or work obligations, can even lead to a "burnout." It's therefore very important to make time for yourself to recharge and relax. That amount of stress is not only bad for your physical and mental well-being, but also not safe for the senior you are caring for.

Caregiver burnout is defined as a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude — from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned.

Helpguide says recognizing the signs of a burnout is the first step in dealing with it. Common symptoms include:

  • Exhibiting less energy than usual
  • Catching every cold or flu in your path
  • Constant exhaustion
  • Restlessness 
  • Becoming increasingly impatient with the senior you're caring for
  • Feeling helpless and hopeless.

To treat stress and exhaustion, you need to take proper care of your own well-being. Here are a few tips for getting the caregiving help you need.

Seek help
Caring for a loved one on top of existing responsibilities—including raising children, maintaining a home and pursuing a career—can be exhausting if you're doing it all on your own. The Alzheimer's Association suggests seeking the support of family, friends and other caregivers for help. If someone you trust reaches out to assist you, don't deny them. Always say "yes" to someone who offers assistance. A helping hand can help recharge you!

Reach out to a friend or family member for help.
Reach out to a friend or family member for help.

"Ask a friend to check up on you frequently."

Schedule check-ins
Helpguide recommends asking a family member, friend or other acquaintance to call you or stop by to visit every once in a while to check on how you're doing. Share phone numbers with this person so that they can update your family on your status. Not only will this be good for your health, but it'll help relax other family members who may be worried about you.

Give yourself a break
As a caregiver, it's always important to make time for yourself to relax and recharge. Not only do you owe leisure time to yourself, but you owe it to the senior you're caring for. Consider fitting these tasks into your schedule:

  • Set aside 30 minutes every day for a hobby
  • Pamper yourself with whatever makes you feel special
  • Find a way to laugh – it's a great stress reliever!

Always remember that caregiving should only bring out the positivity in you. It should be a rewarding experience, not a burden that makes you upset. Make sure to keep your mental and physical health in mind when caring for others, and if it becomes too much to handle on your own, consider other options such as retirement living or other care services.