Taking care of a loved one who has dementia, physical disabilities or other age-related conditions makes demands on your time, energy and emotions — demands that, as the Cleveland Clinic warns, “can easily seem overwhelming.”
Causes of caregiver burnout
Along with the heavy workload and emotional demands of family caregiving, these issues also can contribute to burnout.
• Conflicting demands as you try to balance the needs of the care recipient, coworkers and employers, family members, and yourself.
• Lack of control over money and resources and a lack of the skills needed to effectively manage a loved one's care.
• Lack of privacy because caregiving may leave you with little time to be alone.
• Role confusion, difficulty separating your roles as caregiver and as the parent, sibling or spouse of the care recipient.
• Unreasonable demands placed upon a caregiver by other family members or the person being cared for.
• Unrealistic expectations about the effect caregiving efforts will have on loved ones with progressive diseases such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's.
Sources: Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins Medicine
Caregiving can tax your patience and foster fatigue, frustration and guilt, becoming a grueling grind that takes a heavy toll on the caregiver's body and mind. The effects on physical and mental health are well documented:
- Thirty-six percent of family caregivers characterize their situation as highly stressful, according to the "Caregiving in the U.S. 2020" report from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC).
- Since 2015, when AARP and NAC last conducted the national survey, the proportion of caregivers describing their health as excellent or very good has dropped from 48 percent to 41 percent.
- A November 2021 study from insurance firm Genworth found that 42 percent of family caregivers experience depression, mood swings or resentment as a result of their labors Thirty percent reported sleep deprivation, and 43 percent said caregiving responsibilities have negatively affected their relationship with a spouse or partner.
That's why it's so important to watch for signs of caregiver burnout and take proactive steps to deal with it before it spirals out of control.
The Alzheimer's Association cites these 10 indicators that a caregiver may be experiencing a high level of stress:
• Anger or frustration toward the person you're caring for
• Exhaustion that makes it tough to complete your daily tasks
• Health problems, such as getting sick more often