How to Prevent Caregiver Burnout

A growing number of baby boomers are becoming active caregivers for family members who need extra help as they age. This rite of passage is especially stressful, taxing the caregiver’s mind and body.

AARP cites American Psychological Association research findings stating that caregivers in the 55 to 75 age range show higher stress hormone levels 23% higher than their peers. This level of stress can lead to higher blood pressure and lower immunity. That’s why it is critical to learn how to manage caregiver burnout.

Caregivers often take on a lot of extra tasks for the person they are helping. They wear several hats such as financial manager, cook, counselor, maid and chauffeur, to name a few. Since it is impossible to normally maintain your own life while trying to manage another person’s household, it is highly recommended that caregivers reach out for help themselves so they are less likely to experience caregiver burnout.

Causes of Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver burnout

There are many causes of caregiver burnout and why caregiving often takes a toll on their mental and physical health. The juggling act forced on a person who takes on these responsibilities is enough to push anyone to the brink.

One major cause of caregiver burnout relates to trying to satisfy several family members at once. Family members don’t always agree and often have conflicting agendas and ideas about how to care for a loved one.

It can be difficult to meet the urgent demands of your relative or friend who is suddenly dependent on you for so many things. Add to that enormous strain, the demands of your employer, your coworkers and your family and friends, and it becomes abundantly clear that the role of caregiver can seem impossibly difficult. At times, it can feel like everybody wants a piece of you and that it is impossible to please all of the important people in your life while managing to also take care of yourself in the process.

Managing Finances For a Loved One Can be Daunting

When you introduce financial concerns and a lack of preparedness, time or money to manage practical chores like paying bills, then the stress keeps mounting. Acting as a daily money manager for another human being is often confusing and daunting for a person who does not intimately know a lot about their loved one’s bills or system for paying those bills.

When you consider how many people pay their bills online or through an automatic payment system, it is understandable how difficult it would be to step in and assume a major financial role, especially if that person is struggling mentally and can’t answer questions you have.

As with other categories of caregiving, there is help available for those responsible for managing a loved one’s finances. For example, you can outsource bill management and payment. Services that handle these tasks help you avoid late fees and penalties while also providing protection from scammers, all for a reasonable monthly fee. Outsourcing finance-related responsibilities alone can relieve a lot of stress for caregivers.

Caregivers May Be Responsible For More Than Their Parents

Boomers may find themselves caring for parents, siblings and their own children too. Changing times means many adult children need extra help and are often living with boomer parents. Being sandwiched in between two different generations who rely heavily on you as a resource can be overwhelming.

A lack of privacy often leaves caregivers feeling overtaxed emotionally. Everybody needs some time alone to unwind and relax. These needs are even greater during times of stress when emotions are often running high.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for family members to thrust unreasonable expectations on a caregiver when a member of the family is under duress and needs help. For example, a sibling who lives out of town and can’t easily travel due to their own job and family obligations might expect their brother or sister who lives close by the person in need to do it all. This is a recipe for disaster for the person who happens to live nearest to the person in need.

Family dynamics can be difficult under the best of circumstances. When you add serious illness into the mix, then it is inevitable that the adjustments that must be made are often tough. When a child suddenly becomes the parent, switching roles with their mother or father, the emotional trauma for both parties runs deep.

Progressive diseases demand a tremendous amount of patience and care over months, and sometimes years. The longer the caregiver is forced to juggle multiple tasks and responsibilities beyond their own, the greater the chance for burnout.

Diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are particularly gruesome and demanding. This type of long-term situation warrants getting some outside help from professionals like a bill pay concierge, maid service, or health care aides to provide some relief for overworked caregivers.

Recognizing Caregiver Burnout

It is important to become familiar with the signs of caregiver burnout in your friends, family members and yourself. Baby boomers must make a special effort to support each other as they reach the age when this type of responsibility becomes inevitable for so many. The symptoms of caregiver burnout mimic those associated with depression and stress.

Below are the common symptoms of caregiver burnout that you should be aware of:

  • Irritability
  • Feeling hopeless and unable to cope
  • Experiencing emotional exhaustion
  • Thinking about hurting yourself
  • Getting sick more frequently
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Unexplained withdrawal from family members and friends

Managing and Preventing the Stress Associated with Caregiver Responsibilities

Baby boomers are currently being called on by parents, aunts, uncles and siblings to step in and take on additional duties. No one feels prepared to step into this emotionally draining position. Love fuels our desire to do our part to care for the people we love. It is always a good idea to take measures to prevent and manage the stress you’ll undoubtedly experience as a caregiver.

Preventative steps to minimize caregiver burnout:

  • Identify a trusted friend, neighbor or co-worker to discuss your feelings
  • Accept that you may need to ask for help from others
  • Establish realistic goals for yourself
  • Research resources such as a bill management service and respite care providers to take some of the load off yourself
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Get some exercise
  • Talk to a therapist or social worker for emotional support and guidance
  • Seek out a caregiver support group

Summary

Few responsibilities are more stressful or emotionally charged than assuming another person’s financial, personal and housekeeping tasks. The demands on a bills manager, confidante, health care aid, personal shopper, and supportive advocate can easily become overwhelming. The suddenness of being thrust into the role of a caregiver can quickly reveal how unprepared you are having little understanding about what kind of tasks you’ll be asked to complete.

That’s why it becomes important to take advantage of financial support services and health practices so that you can adapt and be there for your loved ones. Getting the help you need makes it possible to maintain your own emotional and physical health so that you are capable of functioning in a support role at your best.

When falling apart is not an option, it is important to view your own health with the same sense of responsibility that you feel for your loved one. Caregiver burnout is real but it’s something that can be managed by making decisions that are not only good for your loved one, but for you as well.

Alice Goldstein
A Licensed Professional Counselor and Life Coach for over 25 years, Alice has written on a wide range of topics, touching on issues that matter most to seniors. Check out her article “Tips for Successful Marriages for Couples over 70” - a popular post on Marriage.com where Alice is an “Expert” author. Learn more about Alice Goldstein