What is Caregiver Burnout?

I think most of us are feeling burned out now. I mean...we're still in a pandemic that has changed jobs, homes, schools, and families.

But I’m talking about a different kind of burnout -caregiver burnout.

What is caregiver burnout? My experience

This can happen when someone is caring for the medical needs of a loved one (spouse, child, parent, friend, or any other close relationship). And it can be tough!

I’ve always resented my friends who had healthy kids with no medical problems. My three kids and I have allergies, asthma, and food allergies. We tried to stay healthy and were germaphobes LONG before the pandemic. However kids in our neighborhood would come over to play, and I would find out later that they had a cold. A week later, one of my kids would be in the hospital with an asthma flare from pneumonia. Colds are always worse when you have asthma. Sigh.

I juggled controller inhalers, reliever inhalers, nebulizers, steroids, antibiotics, allergy shots for all 3 kids, epinephrine autoinjectors, plus a monthly biologic injection for my son with severe asthma.

I knew EVERY after-hours pediatric clinic in my county and the quickest way to the ER. No matter how careful we were, my kids still ended up in the hospital 12 times with pneumonia, RSV, and because of wildfire smoke.

If that wasn’t enough stress, we were part of the sandwich generation, which meant caring for elderly parents with medical problems. Sadly, they had lots of falls, broken bones, a heart attack, and strokes. Plus they needed help with their home and yard.

It seems like we would just try to get through one day at a time. Like many caregivers, I didn't realize that I was burned out. So how do you know if you are just tired, or if it’s caregiver burnout?

What are the signs?

Signs of caregiver burnout:1

  • Lose interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Withdraw from friends and family
  • Have a change in weight or appetite (hellooooo chocolate!)
  • Sleep more or less than you normally do
  • Feel irritable, hopeless, or blue
  • Get sick more often than normal
  • Are physically and emotionally exhausted

What can you do if you are burned out?

Talk to a friend, neighbor, or colleague. They may be experiencing some of the same things you are. It can also help to talk to a counselor who can talk you through the rough patches.

Search for a caregiver support group in your area. Talking to others in the same boat may help.

Know your limits – it’s okay to ask for help from friends, family, or a church group.

Cleveland Clinic says: “Having negative feelings -- such as frustration or anger -- about your responsibilities or the person for whom you are caring is normal. It does not mean you are a bad person or a bad caregiver.”1

Try to take care of yourself. I’m no good to anyone if I am sleep-deprived, not eating well, and have no time to myself. I saw a funny meme that said: “If you have ever sat on the toilet at work and wondered how long you can sit there before someone comes and finds you, the answer is 47 minutes.” - unknown source

Which reminds me – find a way to cope! Whatever that looks like for you.  I look for funny memes on social media, watch cat videos, meditate, and do yoga (badly, but I still do yoga.)

Remember that caring for yourself is not a luxury, it’s an absolute must for caregivers!

Let’s hear your stories. Do you have caregiver burnout? What helps you when times are rough?

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