What is Caregiver Burnout?

Caregiver burnout is a defined as a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. Burnout can occur when caregivers don't get the help they need or if they try to do more than they are able to do.

What are the symptoms of caregiver burnout?

  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and other loved ones
  • Feeling blue
  • Experiencing changes in sleeping patterns
  • Feeling like you want to hurt yourself or the person you are caring for
  • Irritable
  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Seeing changes in your appetite, weight or both
  • Getting sick more often
  • Emotionally or physically exhausted

If you experience two or more of these symptoms, you may be experiencing caregiver burnout.

What are the causes of caregiver burnout?

Caregivers often are so busy caring for others that they tend to neglect their own emotional, physical and spiritual health. The demands on a caregiver's body, mind, and emotions can easily seem overwhelming, leading to fatigue and hopelessness and ultimately caregivers just  burnout.  Other factors that can lead to caregiver burnout include:

  • Role confusion: It can be difficult for a person to separate his or her role as a caregiver from their role as a spouse, employee, child, friend, etc.
  • Unrealistic expectations: Many caregivers expect their involvement to have a positive effect on the health and happiness of the patient. In some cases, this may be unrealistic for patients suffering from a chronic illness, such as aplastic anemia, MDS or PNH.
  • Lack of control: Many caregivers become frustrated by a lack of resources and skills to effectively plan, manage, and organize their loved one's care.
  • Unreasonable demands: Some caregivers place unreasonable burdens upon themselves because they often think that providing care is their exclusive responsibility when it shouldn't be.

How do you prevent caregiver burnout?

  • Find someone you trust, such as a friend, co-worker or neighbor, to talk about your feelings and frustrations.
  • Participate in a support network or support group.
  • Set realistic goals and accept that you may need help with caregiving. Turn to others for help with some tasks.
  • Establish "quiet time" for yourself each day.  Even if it’s just for a half hour or so. Remember, taking care of yourself is not a luxury. It is an absolute necessity.
  • Educate yourself. The more you know about the illness, the more effective you will be in caring for the person with the illness.
  • Accept your feelings. 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.
  • Know your limits and do a "reality-check" of your personal situation. Recognize and accept your potential for caregiver burnout.
  • Stay healthy by eating right and getting plenty of exercise and sleep. Don’t neglect your own health. 

And don't forget, we are here for you. Don't hesitate to call and speak with our patient educator, view some of the recordings in our Online Learning Center, and talk to our patient educator about connecting with other caregivers in our Peer Support Network.