Identifying and Preventing Family Caregiver Fatigue

Elderly woman in a wheelchair with her female caregiver
Although caring for your elderly friend or loved one can be fulfilling, the stressors associated with the additional workload may leave you feeling overwhelmed. Unless you address these feelings, your relationship will begin suffering, and your state of mind and health may start to deteriorate. This eventually leads to family caregiver fatigue.

According to estimates from the National Alliance for Caregiving, 65.7 million Americans (or 29 percent of the adult U.S. population) served as family caregivers for an ill or disabled relative. Therefore, if you are experiencing caregiver fatigue, you are certainly not alone.

Family Caregiver Stress is usually a Chronic, Long-Term Challenge

Anyone facing years or decades of caregiving responsibilities may feel disheartened, especially if a friend or family member’s condition is expected to continue deteriorating.

On many occasions, caregivers neglect their own physical and mental health because they are so busy caring for others. Without the support you need, you are susceptible to various emotional and physical problems like depression and heart disease.

Common Causes of Family Caregiver Fatigue

  • Role confusion: You may have difficulty separating yourself from your role before you became a family caregiver (child, spouse, friend, etc.).
  • Unrealistic expectations: Ideally, you want your involvement to positively affect the happiness and health of your friend or loved one. While every situation is unique, this may be unrealistic.
  • Irrational demands: You may place unreasonable demands upon yourself because you feel ultimately responsible for the total care of your friend or loved one.
  • Feeling out of control: You may become frustrated due to your inability to care for your loved one effectively.

Symptoms of Family Caregiver Fatigue

Many family caregivers are unaware they are suffering from caregiver fatigue. Recognizing and addressing this issue is essential for both the loved one being cared for and the caregiver. The first step in dealing with caregiving fatigue is to identify the problem.

Here are some of the most common signs of family caregiver burnout:

Depression: Whether you are a long-term or short-term family caregiver, you may experience deterioration of your physical and emotional health. Some indications you may be depressed are:

  • You feel hopeless, helpless and/or sad
  • You are having difficulty sleeping
  • You are irritable
  • You are having difficulty concentrating

Lifestyle changes: As family caregiver fatigue begins to worsen, you may notice some changes to your daily habits, including:

  • An increase in your alcohol consumption
  • Increased smoking habits
  • Changes in your appetite, weight or both

Resentment: Even though your life revolves around caring for your friend or loved one, you receive very little satisfaction. Eventually, you may find yourself resenting the individual you care for.

Neglecting responsibilities: You begin neglecting your needs because you just do not care anymore or you are too busy caring for your loved one.

Overreaction to minor nuisances: You increasingly become impatient and irritable with your loved one.

New/Worsening health issues: You catch every illness that is going around (flu and colds, etc.).

Feeling run down: You constantly feel exhausted, or you feel less energetic than usual.

Avoiding participation: You avoid leisurely activities that you previously enjoyed and withdraw from your friends and family.

Anxiety: You have difficulty relaxing even when you have help caring for your loved one.

How to Prevent Family Caregiver Fatigue

In order to ensure good care to those you’re watching over, it’s important you are actively taking steps to take care of yourself. Now that you have a better understanding of what caregiver burnout looks like, here are a variety of ways you can prevent it.

Ask for help

If you’re feeling mental exhaustion or any other symptoms of caregiver fatigue, ask for help. Create a list of your daily duties and take note of any that could potentially be shared. Speak to your friends or other family members about how they could assist in taking some workload off of you. Don’t assume that they automatically understand what you are going through.

Additionally, many support groups for family caregivers like the National Alliance for Caregiving and Family Caregiver Alliance that provide resources and assistance for those struggling with caregiver fatigue.

Prioritize your own health

Like many relationships in life, you can only be actively present when your own mental and physical health are in order. Practice proper self-care, maintain a clean diet and stay active so that you are your best self when your loved ones need you most.

Take a break

Everyone needs time off once in a while. If a time comes where you have the ability to get away for a quick vacation, jump on it. You can ask friends or family members to assume some of your responsibilities while you are away, or you can consider short-term respite care with high-quality care aides.

Georgetown Home Care is Here for You

Feeling stressed and burned out hurts you and your loved one. You need to take the time to manage the stressors in your own life. Never consider taking a break to recharge a luxury because it is not; it is a necessity.

At Georgetown Home Care, we have experienced staff members who dedicate themselves to caring for our elderly clients. Studies indicate that seniors are better off residing in their own homes. Therefore, our goal is to keep your loved one living in his or her home for as long as possible.

Click the button below to contact Georgetown Home Care so we can help you care for the seniors you love.

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Additional Resources for Family Caregivers