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Help the Helpers: Caregiver Burnout


Caregiver burnout occurs when caregivers fail to replenish the drain on their physical, mental, and emotional health. Whether you are a caregiver for an elderly family member or a hospice patient, compassion fatigue is a genuine health concern. Keep reading to learn how to recognize and treat caregiver burnout.

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that stems from long-term stress, often occurring when caregivers don’t get the help they need. It’s a growing problem. One in five Americans identifies as a caregiver or helper to an elderly or disabled relative. Know the risk factors for burnout and what to do when caregivers reach the breaking point.

What Is a Caregiver?

The term "caregiver" refers to anyone who provides care for another person, usually associated with activities of daily living. Examples of these activities include helping someone dress, preparing meals, driving them to a doctor’s office or pharmacy – anything an individual can no longer do for themselves because of physical or cognitive limitations.

Why Caregivers Experience Burnout

Caregivers experience burnout for several reasons.

Relationship Issues – The ambiguity of roles, moving from the part of spouse/child/sibling to a caregiver, especially if the relationship was previously strained.

Workload – Compassion fatigue is often the result of too many demands on a caregiver’s time and energy, including for work, children, and other obligations.

Money Troubles – Over 90 percent of family caregivers receive no financial compensation. Worrying about medical bills contributes to caregiver burnout.  

Physical and Emotional Demands – The combination of physical exhaustion and the emotional strain of their loved one’s anticipated death is overwhelming, especially when delivering hospice care.

Signs of Caregiver Burnout

Caregivers on the brink of burnout experience one or more of these symptoms. 

  • Irritability, impatience, and shorter temper, particularly with the patient
  • Sleep pattern changes (excessive sleepiness or insomnia)
  • Significant mood changes, including depression, mood swings, or feeling “numb”
  • Physical fatigue and lack of energy
  • Eating changes (loss of appetite or excessive eating, with weight loss or weight gain) Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Neglecting their physical, mental, and emotional needs to the point of crisis

<<Why caregivers are the “cornerstone” of our communities – read more>>

Treating Caregiver Burnout 

If you or a loved one shows signs of caregiver burnout, these tips can help relieve the stress. 

  • Ask for help from family members, friends, local hospices, and agencies that offer respite services 
  • Prioritize self-care, including exercising, eating well, and getting plenty of sleep 
  • Schedule small breaks into the day, perhaps while the patient is sleeping or while someone else is with them
  • Participate in stress reduction activities such as exercise, meditation, or yoga
  • Seek professional mental counseling in person or online
  • Avoid overindulging in alcohol or medication 

<<How to prepare for a loved one’s passing – read about anticipatory grief>>

Government Assistance for Family Caregivers

As a caregiver for an elderly parent or spouse, you could be paid for caring for them. Each government assistance program has eligibility requirements, so be sure to check with each agency for details. There might also be state government programs to help pay for your expenses as a family caregiver.  

Medicaid Self-Directed Care Program

This government assistance program entitles family members to become paid caregivers in some states. 

Veteran-Directed Home and Community-Based Services Program 

Qualified veterans may hire a family member or neighbor as a personal care aide. 

Aid and Attendance from the VA

These benefits are available for veterans with a VA pension and may help cover the costs of a family caregiver.

Long-Term Care Insurance 

Some long-term care insurance policies pay family members to act as caregivers. 

When Giving Becomes Grieving

Losing a loved one is never easy. The grief and loss can be devastating when you’re the primary caregiver. Knowing that you don’t have to worry about funeral arrangements is a comfort to many people. Tulip’s care team is available 24/7 for immediate, imminent, and prearrangement funeral care. We work with local hospices and hospitals for a seamless transition into our care. Simple direct cremation is affordable and straightforward with Tulip. To learn more, click here or call (844) 942-4909.