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Caregiver Fatigue: What to Know and How to Heal

Caregiver burnout, fatigue, stress. You might not know what to call it, but you know it when you feel it: The weight of being a caregiver for an elderly, sick, or injured loved one can take a tremendous toll on your physical and mental health.

Even the strongest, most resilient caretakers hit their limits. If you’re feeling rundown, take a big step back and look for the common signs of caregiver burnout.

First, What Is Caregiver Burnout Syndrome?

Also known as caregiver stress or fatigue, caregiver burnout combines physical, emotional, and mental strain stemming from care responsibilities.

The considerable time and energy of providing direct care to elderly loved ones or those with debilitating conditions can lead to many behavioral changes and impact everyone differently.

Caregiver burnout symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Depression
  • Lack of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Irritability
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Unexpected behavior changes, including social withdrawal

At its most severe, caregiver burnout can even lead to feelings of hopelessness or despair. Reach out to the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed; there are experts ready to help.

The Caretaker Burnout Quiz

If this all sounds familiar, you’re not alone: About 36% of the 53 million unpaid caregivers in the US report experiencing caretaker fatigue. That’s more than 19 million adults struggling with these symptoms.

Take the quiz and give yourself one point for each of these common caregiver burnout signs:

1. In the past 30 days, have you:

  • Had prolonged periods of disturbed or troubled sleep?
  • Experienced unexpected or unexplained weight changes?
  • Noticed unusual changes in energy levels or feelings of exhaustion?
  • Thought, “I am so tired of being a caregiver” or similar themes?

2. Have you noticed any of these mental health issues?

  • Feeling apathetic or uncaring
  • Increased anxiety
  • Feeling more irritable
  • Feeling depressed or hopeless

3. Have you experienced behavioral changes, such as:

  • Staying home more often
  • Avoiding social interactions among friends and family members

If you answered yes to six or more, consider seeking help for burnout stress. Reach out to a trained mental health professional to work through these feelings.

Treating Caregiver Burnout Starts with Self-care

Everyone experiences caregiver stress differently; treating it requires a personalized approach. Start by talking to your healthcare provider about ways to reduce stress and manage symptoms long-term.

  • Make time to care for yourself. You’re not going to find time. Make time to do things you enjoy and that keep you healthy. Keep medical appointments, have lunch with friends, and carve out time each day for physical activity, even if it’s just a short walk.
  • Call in reinforcements. Ask friends or family members to pitch in with more accessible tasks, like going shopping or driving your loved one to appointments. Don’t underestimate the willingness of those around you to help, especially if it’s something they feel comfortable doing.
  • Get outside help. Short-term or regular respite care is an option for burned-out caregivers with fluid personal or professional demands.
  • Know your limits. Once you hit the wall, know when to step back and reassess. Take a long look at your routine and schedule and find responsibilities to hand off.

Being a caregiver to a loved one can take a toll over time. Be sure to check in on your own health and happiness.

Get the Support You Need to Thrive Again

Recover from caregiver fatigue with friendly, professional support from Homewatch CareGivers. When a trained caregiver takes over for a few hours a day or week, it's your chance to rest and recover from being the helper. Homewatch CareGivers offers respite care to support stressed-out family caregivers like you. Find a location near you or call (888) 404-5191 today.

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