Caregiver Burnout – You need to ask for help

March 26, 2009 by  
Filed under For Patients & Families


I totally get what you are going through. I was a caregiver for many family members for many, many years. Sometimes I could manage just fine. But sometimes I was overwhelmed, exhausted and unappreciated.  I admire people who can take care of those who are sick or elderly or dying. But I also know it comes at a cost to the person doing the caregiving. So, let’s talk about some of the signs of caregiver stress and then discuss some ways you can ask for help. (Help is out there even if your family won’t help you.)

Signs of caregiver stress and burnout:

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion

Fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression

Accompanied by a change in attitude – from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned

Why do caregivers burnout?

Don’t get the help they need, or if they are doing more than they are able, physically or financially

May become ill themselves

May feel guilty if they spend time on themselves

May have to quit job to stay home

May go bankrupt, both financially and emotionally

But there is another problem. By the time you need extra caregiving help, you are too tired, emotionally fatigued or depressed yourself to ask for help. You have to get a support team in place early on so you don’t have to get to your breaking point.

You may also be suffering from caregiver grief. Your loved one is not the person they used to be and you miss the way things used to be. Or the death of your loved one may be approaching and you are already grieving. This is called anticipatory grief and it is normal. There are grief support groups both online and in your community. If there are local groups you would like me to list on my resource page, let me know.

Help is on the way. There are people and organizations trained to help people in distress. The first person to ask is the patient’s primary doctor. Now you will have two possible reactions from the doctor. One may say, “I can’t help you with what is going on at home, or two, “I can order some home health support to get you through this crisis.” Now the doctor won’t be able to send in someone to take over for you, but they can order a visiting nurse, medical equipment, or someone to help.

Another person you can turn to is your local hospital’s social worker. This is a person who already knows what resources are available in your town and can give you a list of people you could call. There are also free organizations in most communities such as meals on wheels, dial a ride and volunteers with groups such as the American Cancer Society. You can also contact is your local senior center who may be able to provide services.

Have a kind and respectful day.

Got a question?  Ask Viki.  <!–coldform–>

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One Comment on "Caregiver Burnout – You need to ask for help"

  1. Lynette Summerill on Thu, 26th Mar 2009 10:38 pm 

    Viki you are spot on with this post. Thank you. Caregivers often feel as if they are shouldering the weight alone. Often times they are. Suffering in silence can be overwhelming. But there is help out there. I work for the American Cancer Society and want to thank you for mentioning our organization as well as let you know that there are helpful tools and resources specifically for caregivers on our web site at or by calling toll free 1-800-ACS-2345.

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