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  • Writer's pictureKate Bradshaw

Avoiding Carer Burnout

Carer burnout is more common than you may think and should be taken seriously.

It can impact your health, your happiness, and your relationship with your loved one.

Carer burnout has a few main causes; Carers are busy, many are also parents and employees, so they’re always jumping from task to task.

Carers are always on duty, they often live with their loved one are always waiting for the next task or request. This makes it difficult to relax. Carers can also be lonely, many carers express feelings of isolation and loneliness because of their caring role.

Below are five signs that you or somebody close to you is experiencing carer burnout and we have included some steps you can take to prevent burnout occurring in the first place.

Carer Burnout Sign #1:
You’re less patient with your loved one

If you’re experiencing burnout, your temper might flare more often. This is especially true if you’re the sole Carer. When you’re around your loved one all the time, you’re always on duty. You can never fully relax because you’re waiting for the next task or request. Over time, this might make you short-tempered.

Being impatient with your loved one may cause you to feel guilty or inadequate. It may strain your relationship with your loved one and they may come to feel like a burden. Here are some steps to overcome this sign of Carer burnout:

  • Recognise that this is burnout. You might not even notice this as a sign of burnout at first. You may just feel like your loved one is being extra demanding or unappreciative.

  • Let your loved one know. If you have open communication then your loved one can support you. You might say, “Hey, mum, I’m feeling overwhelmed this week so I’m going to bed early tonight. Is there anything you need before I do? I’m hoping not to get up again once I’m in bed.” Most of the time, our loved ones do want to support us, we just need to show them how.

  • Set healthy boundaries. If you’re clear about your needs, you’re less likely to lash out because you’ve set healthy boundaries.

  • Consider respite care. If your loved one has a hard time respecting boundaries, having someone else take care of them can give you the space you need. Respite providers can be friends, family members, or paid Carers.

Carer Burnout Sign #2:
You have a strained relationship with your family

Carers often feel alone and isolated. Many carers wish that their siblings and other family members helped more. Frustration with family members may worsen if you’re experiencing burnout. If you’re overworked and tired, it can be easy to become resentful. Then, your family members may avoid you out of feelings of defensiveness or guilt. This might make you feel even more alone, making matters worse.

Every family’s situation is different, so you’ll need to assess yours. Here are a few common scenarios:

  • Siblings are uncomfortable providing direct care for your parent. Consider asking for help with things like cooking meals or cleaning.

  • You had a complicated childhood. Some carers find themselves caring for parents despite complicated family histories. If that’s the case for you, perhaps your siblings are unable to move past that history in the way you have.

  • Your family lives far away from you. If so, they may not even realise the extent of the support you provide.

Understanding your family dynamics will help you recognise what the barriers are for getting help. If you’re comfortable doing so, reach out to your family for support at the very least, let your family know that you’re feeling burned out so they can be there to listen.

Carer Burnout Sign #3:
You’re always tired, sick, and feeling run-down

Constant stress can make you tired and weaken your immune system. Between all of their responsibilities, many carers feel there isn’t enough time to sleep. Even if you’re sleeping a lot, you might still feel tired and run-down, especially if you’re always busy. For a better night’s sleep, use sleep tips like darkening the room and powering down before bed. Then during the day, try fighting burnout with food by eating more lean protein and leafy greens.

Regain some energy by learning how to say no. You don’t have to say yes to every request. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t have time to bake homemade cupcakes for your child’s classroom – store bought is fine. If you’re dreading a social engagement, politely decline and use that time to recharge. On the other hand, make time for activities and events that bring you joy. Leave the dishes in the sink for a night if it means you’ll spend the evening catching up with an old friend. Learning how to say no will allow you to say yes to the important things.

Carer Burnout Sign #4:
You don’t make time for your own needs

If you’re experiencing burnout, you may not have the energy to focus on your own needs. Who has time to go to the doctor or cook healthy meals when you barely have time to sleep? This will ultimately cause more harm than good.

If you don’t take care of yourself, you may experience long-term impacts on your health. Put reminders in your calendar so you can keep track of your own health, just as you would for your loved one. A little bit of time each month will go a long way towards protecting your long-term health.

Carer Burnout Sign #5:
You feel sad and hopeless

Many carers experience depression. Depression is a sign of burnout, especially if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed for a long time. Depression can be serious and for many people, professional support can be an enormous help.

Professional help may consist of medication, therapy, support groups for carers, or other types of interventions. If your feelings of hopelessness are frequent or last a long time, seek professional help. You can talk through options with your doctor to find one that works for you.

Carers are wonderful at taking care of others but don’t always know how to take care of themselves. Protecting yourself from burnout isn’t a selfish thing to do. Your loved one doesn’t want your well-being to suffer because of your caring role. Being a Carer isn’t about taking care of someone at the expense of your health and happiness.

Being a Carer is about giving your loved one the opportunity to live a rich and fulfilling life. It’s about making memories with your loved one that you’ll cherish forever. Being a carer is hard work, but there is so much more to it than that. Recognise the signs of burnout, and take steps to address them. This will protect your health, well-being, and relationship with your loved one.

If you recognise any of these signs, it may be time to seek support and talk to an agency that can assist with your Caring role. Find out more about what Quality Health Care can do to support you in your Caring role by visiting our website here.

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