Guest Blog Written by Donna Jefferson for Caring Transitions
Caregivers provide an essential and undervalued service to
society by looking after the elderly and infirm. Without professional and
casual carers, there’d be nobody to see to the needs and wellbeing of the
Due to the nature of caregiving work, much emphasis is, of
course, placed on the needs of the client. However, the needs of the caregiver
are often overlooked. As a caregiver, failing to prioritize your own needs can
have dire consequences for you and your charge.
It’s therefore vitally important for you and your employer
to be aware of the signs of caregiver burnout and to make
sure you get the downtime you need between working hours.
What is Caregiver
As a caregiver, you are responsible for every task a person
cannot perform for themselves. Depending on the level of infirmity, this can
involve a variety of highly demanding jobs that can leave you feeling
physically and emotionally drained. This is to be expected, as caregiving is a
demanding job, and it is only natural for it to take a toll on your reserves.
A burnout, however,
is a culmination of too many days spent giving more energy, both emotional and
physical, than you have to offer. It is not always easy to admit to yourself
that caring for a client or loved one is a burden that comes with several
Nobody wants to think of a vulnerable person as a source of
stress because, after all, they can’t help it. It is, however, essential to
acknowledge the strain that comes with caregiving so that you can look after
your own needs as well as those of your charge. You may be a caregiver, but you
are still human, and you cannot provide care if your own internal resources are
In cases of caregiver burnout, you may feel physically and
emotionally exhausted from the constant strain of looking after your charge.
This can compound further if they are a loved one, as the perceived obligation
to be there for them can easily override any concern for your own wellbeing.
During burnout, a caregiver often lacks the resources and
energy to provide adequate self-care, leading to symptoms such as malnutrition,
sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression, and more. You may feel as though you’re
unsupported and alone in your mission to care for your charge.
You may even begin to resent your client or loved one, creating an uncomfortable emotional
paradox that can lead to severe feelings of guilt and shame. It’s vital to
remember that this is simply the consequence of getting overworked and
overtired, and not a reflection of your character or professionalism. Almost
every caregiver experiences this kind of burnout at least once.
How to Prevent
First and foremost,
acknowledge and respect your own limitations. We are all only human and capable
of a finite amount of care before we need to tend to our own needs. This is not
a character flaw; it’s a natural and healthy
mechanism to keep ourselves in balance.
regular sleep. The importance of this is impossible to overstate. Sleep
facilitates countless essential processes in our bodies and brains. Without
sufficient sleep, the mental, emotional, and physical toll of your caregiving
will feel progressively more burdensome until you can no longer carry on. Work
out a sleep schedule that affords you 7-9 hours of uninterrupted rest and stick
nutritious food. When so much of your time is spent looking after the health
and comfort of others, one of the first things to slip is your own nutrition.
With so many quick and convenient fast-food options available, it can be
tempting to opt for ease over quality. If you don’t often have the time or
freedom to cook regular healthy meals for yourself, try cooking and freezing a
variety of nutritious dishes that you can heat up at a moment’s notice.
Get help when you need
it. Especially if you are providing voluntary care for a loved one or have to
cope with heavy mobility equipment and around-the-clock special needs. Professional caregivers,
while just as susceptible to burnout, have set
working hours and colleagues to share the burden. If you are caring for a loved
one at home, make sure you have others to call on when you need a break.
Take frequent breaks.
You need time in between working hours to rest and recuperate. If you feel
yourself beginning to take too much strain, call for support and take some
downtime. Even if it’s half an hour in the middle of the day.
Spend time with supportive friends and family. Humans are social creatures, and spending time in good company
is an essential part of the restorative process. Speak to them about your
burden and allow yourself to enjoy being social, even if all you can face is
some tea and casual conversation in your living room.
Get professional help
if you notice signs of caregiver burnout. Speaking to a counselor, therapist, or doctor can often ameliorate feelings of
guilt by validating your exhaustion. They can also offer you tailored coping
strategies and suggest appropriate recourse in severe cases.
Caring For Yourself
Equips You To Care For Others
You can only care for a client or loved one as well as you
care for yourself. Access to support and resources vary from situation to
situation. But taking what time you can to look after yourself is always in the
best interests of those you care for. If you think you may be suffering from
caregiver burnout, seek help from a healthcare professional as soon as you can.
Developing effective and sustainable strategies for
shouldering the burden of caregiving is essential, especially in long-term
If you are unsure where to start, the National
Institute of Health, the Family
Caregiver Alliance, and the Caregiver Action Network have a wealth of
information and resources available online, as well as local support networks
you can tap into when necessary.