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Caregiver Burnout: How to Avoid Reaching the Breaking Point

Caregiver Burnout: How to Avoid Reaching the Breaking Point


AdobeStock_86455024-minAs if juggling the daily demands of a full time job, marriage and kids isn’t enough, millions of adults across Canada are now facing the stark reality that they have to also tend to the needs of their aging parents. Even seniors are facing the stress of figuring out how to properly care for themselves and maybe even their spouse who may be dealing with health problems of their own.With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that there is a condition that develops amongst the kind of people mentioned above; it’s Caregiver Burnout. Officially, the condition is described as someone being in a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that can also include attitude fluctuations ranging from the positive and caring to negative and unconcerned.


Does this sound familiar to you? If so, you’re certainly not alone. With the aging Baby Boomer population, family members and spouses across the land are trying to figure out how best to provide senior care but most of the time they have little to no training or understanding of the myriad of issues that can arise and how that stress then manifests in their own lives. Namely, what happens to them when they are pushed to their limits and allow their own emotional and physical needs to go by the wayside, effectively endangering their own health in the process. Heightened stress, financial concerns and depression are common signals that Caregiver Burnout is coming into full bloom. Here is a list of other  warning signs to be aware of:


Mental and Emotional                                                        Physical

Anxiety/Depression                                                              Poor sleeping habits

Moodiness, Irritability, Argumentative                                 Back, shoulder or neck pain, muscle tension

Memory problems and lack of concentration                     Headaches

Feeling out of control                                                            Digestive problems

Increased reliance on alcohol, drugs, food                        Weight gain or loss

Feelings of isolation                                                              High blood pressure

Job dissatisfaction                                                                Fatigue

Caregiver Burnout How to Avoid

Sometimes, family dynamics can make it very difficult and painful to put together a general plan of action or even specialized Alzheimer’s or dementia care strategies. So how do you find a healthy balance? Don’t be the hero who takes on everything in the family, especially if there are other siblings or family members that can shoulder some of the responsibility. This could mean divvying up chores like who does the groceries and errands, who handles the finances, who is in charge of day-to-day medical decisions, etc.


  • Knowing that it’s okay to ask for help is a big step as is accepting help when it’s offered. There’s no shame in admitting it’s all too much to handle on your own so if someone offers to drive mom or dad to an appointment to give you some time to catch your breath, say yes!


  • Making time for yourself is critical. Go for walk, go to the movies, read a book or watch your favourite television show. Whatever it is you enjoy doing, set aside at least 30-minutes a day that is dedicated to engaging in whatever activity you want to do that day or evening, even if it’s as simple as hiding in the laundry room for a little peace and quiet. Also making sure to fit in time to exercise, meditate, sleep and eat a healthy diet will work wonders to keep you feeling better in mind, body and soul.


  • Another really important and sensitive point is to realize what you can change and accept what you cannot alter. If your family situation is especially stressful and you’re not getting any help from them, acknowledge it and work on finding another course of action. Wondering why this is all happening when there are no clear answers isn’t going to help you. Dwelling on the negative won’t make you feel any better either.


  • Talking about how under pressure you feel is such a great way to find some release and if you don’t feel comfortable unloading these emotions on your friends or family members, there are many support groups that exist for this purpose. This struggle is not yours alone. Many others are stumbling their way through it too, so talk with them and maybe you’ll pick up some great tips or be able to share a few. You can find support groups online or even in your own community. You can do an internet search, check the Yellow Pages, or talk to your doctor or local hospital to see if they can get you in touch with the right support group for you.
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