Chances are, if you’ve been a caregiver for more than a few weeks, you’ve experienced a certain degree of caregiver burnout—an overwhelming feeling of being unable to cope with the responsibilities of providing care.
The demands involved in caring for an elderly loved one can add up quickly, leaving you exhausted and stressed out. Over time, the cumulative effect of caregiver stress can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health.
Be on the lookout for the following six signs of caregiver burnout so you can work quickly to reduce some of the burden. If you find yourself thinking, doing or saying any of these things, take action to reduce stress, find respite care and seek help from your doctor to protect your own well-being.
6 Signs of Caregiver Burnout
- I just don’t feel like talking to or seeing anyone today—even my friends and family.
If you discover that you consistently don’t want to interact with people, especially close family and friends, it could be a sign that caring for your elderly loved one is becoming too draining.
- I used to really enjoy reading mystery novels, but even a thrilling whodunit doesn’t seem to hold my interest anymore.
If you’ve lost interest in your favorite hobbies and pastimes, it may indicate that you need a break from caregiving.
- Sometimes taking care of Mom is too much. I feel like I want to end it all.
Thoughts of suicide or hurting your elderly loved one are dangerous warning signs of extreme burnout and probable depression. You should immediately seek help from a mental health professional if you find yourself having violent thoughts. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 and provides free and confidential support and resources to individuals in distress.
- I’ve been eating weirdly lately.
Abnormal eating patterns—whether it’s eating too much or not enough—can be symptoms of extreme stress. Many caregivers experience emotional eating and reach for comfort foods as a way of soothing negative feelings. Others are so wrought with stress that they lose their appetites and hardly eat at all. Digestive issues may accompany changes in appetite as well.
- I’ve been sleeping weirdly lately.
If you have trouble falling asleep at night, difficulty staying asleep or a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, you may be feeling the effects of caregiver burden.
- It’s been several weeks, and I still can’t seem to shake this cold.
Stress can devastate your immune system, especially over the long term. Illnesses that last longer than they should are a sign of compromised immune function that could be due to your caregiving duties. In addition to drawing out temporary illnesses, chronic stress can also contribute to serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and gastrointestinal disorders.
The keys to combatting caregiver burnout are self-awareness and self-care. Both you and your care recipient will suffer if you’ve lost the interest or ability to provide quality care. Start by developing some self-care strategies to help you de-stress and prioritizing respite care so you can take breaks from caregiving. After all, caregivers need care too.
Sources: Caregiver Burnout (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9225-caregiver-burnout); What are the health effects of chronic stress? (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323324.php#when-to-see-a-doctor)