Stressed caregiver sitting alone

Caregivers are sometimes asked the question, “How are you doing?” Unfortunately, most people who ask this question aren’t looking for a truthful answer, nor would they know how to help if the caregiver confides that things are not going well. Faced with a decision to continue providing care even when feeling overwhelmed, a caregiver can begin to neglect his or her own needs. If ignored, caregiver burnout is inevitable.

In November, I shared a part of my experience caring for my elderly mother. Caring for her in our home brought much joy and satisfaction, but I became burned out when my ability to provide for her safety did not keep up with her increasing emotional and physical needs. To make matters worse, my anxiety was increased by the guilt that came from feeling I wasn’t providing good enough care. For caregivers who are feeling unusual stress, it is my hope that this article will provide information about symptoms of caregiver burnout, ways to avoid it, and resources that may offer support.

Symptoms of caregiver burnout:
• A decrease in desire, or lack of energy to participate in hobbies or pastimes.
• Thoughts of suicide or hurting yourself or your loved one.
• Feeling blue, hopeless and helpless.
• Withdrawal from family friends and loved ones.
• Abnormal eating patterns; excessive weight gain or weight loss.
• Increased alcohol use or inappropriate drug use.
• A change in sleeping patterns; excessive sleeping or insomnia.
• Illnesses that last longer than usual or getting sick more often.
• Becoming impatient or irritable with those around you.

Ways to Avoid Caregiver Burnout:
• Take time for yourself each day. As few as 20 minutes can recharge and energize.
• Keep a daily routine for yourself and your loved one.
• Eat a well balanced diet and drink plenty of fluids.
• Get plenty of sleep. Rest when your loved one rests.
• Know your limits and try not to overextend yourself when providing care.
• Know when to ask for help; make a list of family, friends and neighbors who can give you a break when needed. Do not be afraid to call on them for help.
• Join a support group. Other caregivers can best understand your situation and offer advice and support.
• Make caregiving a team effort for the whole family. Make written assignments.
• Confide in a trusted friend, healthcare professional or ecclesiastical leader who is willing to listen and offer insights and encouragement.
• Accentuate the positive. Look for moments of caregiving that bring you joy and satisfaction. Laughter is good medicine.

Where to turn for help:
• Contact your physician or healthcare provider if you are experiencing new health problems or illness, or if you are having thoughts of suicide or harming yourself or others.
• Seek out a caregiver support service such as a local or online support group.
• Inquire at your local Senior Citizen’s or Community Center for meal/nutrition programs, social and recreational activities, transportation services, and public benefits counseling.
• Consider in-home care services such as hospice, home health, and private care aides like those listed on (search for award-winning home care by entering your zip in the field at the top of this page).

Caregivers who are very busy caring for others often neglect their own needs, which can lead to caregiver burnout. Our goal at is to help you avoid caregiver burnout by recognizing early warning signs or symptoms. If you are experiencing burnout, seek immediate help from your healthcare professional, family, friends, and in-home care providers if necessary. Take care of yourself first so you are able to care for the ones you love.

vickiheadshot-[500x500]]Vicki Eckersel is a Bachelor’s prepared RN who believes that the power of patient-centered education has the ability to promote healing and well being. Her love of nursing runs deep over the past 20 years, through nearly every area of health care, including management. While her favorite hobby is being a mother, she often says that being an RN is a close second. Fortunately, the two blend well in a crazy home filled with nine wonderful people and one lovable dog. She hopes one day to combine her love of nursing with travel to serve those in need in foreign lands.