Caregiver Burnout & Stress
Caregiver Burnout & Stress
According to the "2020 Caregiving in the U.S." report from The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, more people are experiencing negative health effects from caregiving compared to 2018. In addition to the physical strain, 64 percent of the study's participants responded that they considered the situation to be moderately or highly stressful. That number increases to 72 percent among caregivers who feel they're alone in their duties. Understanding the issues, learning about symptoms to watch for and taking action to cope can help increase caregivers' feelings of balance, hope, and joy.
The Effects of Caregiver Stress and Burnout
There are roughly 44 million caregivers in the United States. Left unchecked, everyone is vulnerable to these common effects:
- Anxiety and depression
- Weakened immune systems
- Weight gain and obesity
- Increased risk of health problems including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer
- Stress on relationships
- Difficulty focusing and problems with short-term memory
Stress vs. Burnout: What's the Difference?
When caregivers don't cope with the stress of caregiving, it eventually leaves them with caregiver burnout, which is more severe and can lead to serious problems. Here’s how you can differentiate between the two:
Caregiver Stress Symptoms
- Irritability, depression and/or anxiety
- Feeling tired and weary
- Having trouble sleeping
- Developing new health problems or worsening of existing ones
- Drinking larger quantities of alcohol and overeating
- Not participating in hobbies and activities
Caregiver Burnout Symptoms
- Depression, anxiety, and feeling like you’re losing control of your life
- Feeling constant exhaustion no matter how much rest you get
- Having difficulty relaxing
- Getting sick frequently
- Getting more irritable and impatient with the care recipient
- Not taking care of your own needs
- Not getting satisfaction from caregiving or leisure activities
Tips for Coping With Stress and Burnout
Acceptance. Perspective. Celebrating small wins. These are all ways to help cope with stress and avoid burnout. Others include:
Making time for yourself
Connect with friends, prioritize physical activity and a healthy diet, and get regular checkups.
Setting realistic goals
Take small steps, tackle tasks within your wheelhouse and learn to say no to things you're not comfortable doing.
Asking for help
You don't have to go it alone. Look into support groups for yourself and community resources to help with the care of your loved one.
Try taking deep, slow breaths. Count from one to 10 while you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth while keeping your mind focused on the present moment. Or, you can breathe deeply while visualizing your favorite spot to relax.
Powerlessness is the biggest contributor to burnout. You can't control everything but you can control how you respond, look for silver linings and embrace the choice you made to become a caregiver.