Caregiver Burnout: What to Do About it and How to Avoid It

Having a loved one in assisted living during the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for family members. The restricted visiting hours have caused some relatives to welcome their loved ones into their homes instead of having them stay in communities. There have also been other families in need of assisted living, but have decided to postpone their move during this time of uncertainty, relying more on family caregivers to manage their day-to-day tasks.

While the responsibility of becoming a caregiver for a loved one or family member can be rewarding, it can also add additional stress to everyday life, especially when you’re uncertain of when your role as a caregiver will end. Over time, the demands of caregiving can be overwhelming and draining, eventually leading to a feeling of caretaker burnout.

Identifying the Signs of Caregiver Burnout

Giving proper care to a loved one is important, but if you don’t take care of yourself, caregiver stress and burnout may begin to take its toll on your mental and physical health, relationships and more. Here are some common caregiver burnout symptoms and ways to address them before you or your loved one are affected:

  • Getting sick more often and catching any cold or flu that makes its round
  • Finding yourself exhausted, even when you get enough sleep or take frequent breaks
  • Becoming irritable and impatient with your loved one
  • Having trouble relaxing when you do have downtime
  • Feeling little to no satisfaction when caregiving
  • Lacking the energy or interest to care for yourself anymore
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Overreacting to minor inconveniences
  • Eating, smoking or drinking more than usual
  • Feeling a sense of hopelessness, anxiety or depression
  • Isolating yourself physically and emotionally

How You Can Ease and Overcome Caregiver Strain and Burnout

Once you are able to identify the signs of stress that have been affecting you as a caregiver, it’s good to consider resources and outside help that will get you feeling back to your normal self and restore balance to your life. Caregiver burnout prevention starts with identifying your own needs and communicating them to yourself and those around you.

Identify how you’re feeling and embrace where you are at

The first step to restoration is being honest with yourself. This goes beyond knowing what the signs of caregiver burnout are, by allowing yourself to recognize where you’re being stretched too thin and acknowledging what you can and cannot do. When you feel yourself becoming resentful, think of the ways that caregiving has made you a better person, and focus on the positive outcomes of your commitment to being a caregiver. By accepting the things you can’t change about your situation, you empower yourself to discover the things you can change.

Ask for help and distribute responsibility

You don’t have to take on all the responsibility of caregiving. Reach out to family or friends for help with caregiver burnout and try to divide up tasks. Assistance with something simple, like making sure your loved one takes their medicine, can take some weight off your shoulders and give you a few extra minutes to focus on yourself. Consider downloading a caregiving app, like CaringBridge. These tools can help you and your family split up tasks and manage responsibility.

Take care of yourself

From simply including your needs in your daily routine to spending some extra time for yourself to recharge — like going for a nature walk, there are many ways you can give yourself a break when you notice signs of caregiver burnout. But most importantly, make sure you’re following a consistent sleep schedule, exercising, maintaining your personal relationships, eating healthy and prioritizing the activities you enjoy.

Establish a community

Sharing your feelings and talking about what you’re going through with friends and family can help you avoid bottling things up which can lead to anger and depression. If you don’t think your own network of people would understand, consider outside resources for caregiver burnout, like joining a caregiving support group or seeking out professional help. Although many support groups aren’t meeting in-person during COVID-19, there are Facebook groups focused on caregivers that you can join. You can also try searching “caregiver support near me” for local resources. Talking to other caregivers can help you to feel heard and less alone in your daily challenges. Overall, continuing to engage in social activities and communicating your point of view is essential to recovery, plus just getting out of the house can be extremely restorative.

Looking for more resources?

If you’re based in Minnesota, these community organizations might be a good starting place for you:

We’re here to help

Cherrywood Pointe is here to help your family, friends and community stay healthy and safe. If there is anything we can do, or if you have any questions, feel free to contact us. Even if you’re not ready for a move, our Outreach & Sales Directors are happy to share resources with you while you’re on your caregiver journey.

If you or someone you know is showing the signs of being a burnt-out caregiver, struggling to adjust during this time or feeling a sense of loneliness or depression, it’s important to talk about what’s going on. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s hotline 1-800-662-HELP (4357) puts you in touch with counseling services and other local resources.

Wondering what senior living at Cherrywood Pointe looks like during the time of COVID-19? Find Cherrywood Pointes policies here.