Recognize signs you need help before caregiving stress takes its toll on your health.
Caregiving for a family member can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences. It can also be one of the most stressful.
A 2020 report conducted by the AARP and the National Alliance on Caregiving found that the number of family caregivers has climbed from 18% of adults in 2015 to more than 21% in 2020. And 36% of these caregivers say their situation is “highly stressful.” If this stress is not addressed, it can affect physical, mental and emotional health.
Caregiver burnout refers to the fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression caregivers experience when they don’t get the help they need. The Mayo Clinic says there are several warning signs that indicate it’s time to get some help.
Do you answer “yes” to any of these questions?
- Do you feel overwhelmed or constantly worried?
- Do you feel tired often?
- Are you getting too much sleep or not enough sleep?
- Are you gaining or losing weight?
- Do you become easily irritated or angry?
- Have you lost interest in activities you used to enjoy?
- Do you feel sad?
- Do you have frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems?
- Are you abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medication?
What you can do
If signs show you’re headed toward caregiver burnout, or possibly already there, take steps now to deal with it before it becomes worse. Here’s how:
- Ask for help. Is there a family member who can help you by running errands, cooking or spending time with your loved one so you get relief? Can you schedule that help on a regular basis?
- Seek in-home respite care. Consider hiring short-term in-home respite care through a home care agency or look into adult care centers and programs in your community.
- Check out the Eldercare Locator, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging that connects you to services for older adults and their families. You can also reach them at (800) 677-1116. The Eldercare Locator can also put you in touch with your local Area Agency on Aging to help you find services for seniors in your community.
- Find emotional support. Support groups and supportive online communities can provide encouragement and understand what you are going through.
Caregiver burnout can be treated and prevented. By taking time for yourself, you can become a happier and healthier caregiver—benefitting both you and your loved one.
For more information
Support Groups, Family Caregiver Alliance, National Center on Caregiving.
Caregiver Support, USA.gov.