Currently, about 53 million Americans work as family caregivers. This is usually an unpaid role on top of a career, family, and other responsibilities. Unfortunately, the stress and work of being a family caregiver often lead to caregiver burnout.
According to a 2020 report from the National Caregiving Alliance and AARP:
- 21% of caregivers reported their own health as fair or poor
- 40% feel their situation is high-intensity
- 24% are providing care for two more individuals
- 31% struggle with coordinating care
- 53% felt they had no choice in taking on the caregiver role
- Physical exhaustion
- Mental fatigue
- Frequent illness
- Mood changes
- Caregivers often neglect their own needs and feel guilty if they take time to care for themselves. That is why self-care isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity. It is just as vital to maintain your own mental and physical well-being as it is to ensure that your family member visits their doctor’s or take their medication on time.
- Some caregivers put unrealistic demands on themselves, in part because they believe that providing care is their sole obligation.
- Siblings, adult children, or the patient themselves may make excessive demands on the caregiver.
- Unrealistic expectations about their own impact on the situation and health of the individual
- Difficulty separating the role from other roles they’ve played in the person’s life
Your responsibilities can quickly shift from grocery shopping and driving them to medical appointments to providing daily care and handling finances and medical records. You’ve become a full-time caretaker without even realizing it or planning for it.
Because many caregiving situations begin as informal caregiving within the family, no boundaries or criteria are usually specified and agreed upon from the start. Unfortunately, most caregivers believe that they will not require boundaries.
On the other hand, establishing clear boundaries can be a practical approach to avoid role confusion and maintain a good connection between all involved.
- Lack of control over money, resources, skills, etc.
Preventing Caregiver Burnout
- Be clear about your role and don’t take on additional responsibilities
- Talk to a friend or therapist to get perspective
- Ask for help with specific tasks or support
- Work with an occupational therapist
- Make time for self-care by creating structure
- Find resources such as a local senior center
- Join a support group
- Know your limits and be honest with yourself
- Be realistic about your loved one’s disease and prognosis
- Take advantage of respite care services
- Know that feeling angry and frustrated are normal sometimes
If you work as a family caregiver, let us know in the comments what you struggle with and what you do to prevent caregiver burnout.