An exhausted adult caregiver sitting on a couch and showing signs of burnout.

No matter which profession or industry you work in, there’s a good chance you’ve heard a coworker say “I feel like I’m going to burnout.” You may have used that phrase yourself. What exactly is burnout? 

Brought on by an overabundance of stress, burnout is the condition of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. While some professionals may misuse burnout to describe a slight annoyance or stress they feel on a particularly bad day, it is not a term that’s used lightly for caregivers. 

Caregiving requires a great deal of responsibility. For many folks, caring for an elderly or infirm family is a full-time job. And many caregivers may have to perform this job while working professionally, raising a family and trying to take care of their own personal needs. All of these responsibilities can add up and cause caregiver burnout. In turn, that burnout can lead to increased fatigue and anxiety. It may even result in bouts of depression. 

In this article, the first of two parts, we’ll explain some of the causes of caregiver burnout and identify some of the warning signs of this condition. 

Causes of Caregiver Burnout

There is no one root cause for caregiver burnout. Unlike many professions, this form of burnout is not attributable to one or two factors. There are many contributing factors that cause this type of burnout. 

Below are three of the most common cause of caregiver burnout:

  • Personal Neglect: One of the biggest causes of caregiver fatigue, anxiety and depression is personal neglect. While these individuals are busy caring for their ailing family member, they fail to provide care for themselves. This puts their own physical and mental wellness in jeopardy. If the neglect continues, the results could be devastating to the caregiver and their charge. The caregiver may become ill and require care. 
  • Excessive Demands: This cause may be contributed by the caregiver or an outside party. Some caregivers see this role as their sole responsibility. They often feel like they can perform the required care without assistance from family and friends. And they believe they can do it along with their other personal and professional demands. This can lead to excessive hardships that result in burnout. Similarly, other family members may place undue pressure on caregivers. This occurs when they intentionally or unintentionally shirk their own responsibilities and place them on the caregiver. 
  • Impossible Expectations: While caregivers strive to positively impact their loved ones’ lives, they sometimes set themselves up for failure. Believing that their actions can result in an improved prognosis for their loved one, caregivers set expectations that are impossible to achieve. This is especially true for patients who have progressive of terminal conditions.

Signs of Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver burnout is a slow burn process. It doesn’t happen overnight. That being the case, there are many warning signs. 

Caregivers, their friends and family should be on the lookout for any of the following signs of burnout: 

  • Isolation: If a caregiver starts to remove themselves from their immediate family and close friends. They choose to spend any available free time alone instead of with others.This is unhealthy as the only thing there to keep them company is their thoughts.  
  • Lack of Interest: If an active person with lots of hobbies and interests loses interest due to their caregiving, this is cause for concern. These hobbies and activities are what helps them relax and stave off stress. Once they fail to participate in these activities, burnout is not far behind. 
  • Sleeplessness: Everyone has a sleepless night now and then. But if a caregiver’s nights are filled with restless sleep or little sleep, it will take a toll on their health and well being. 
  • Weight Loss: It’s often easy to identify healthy weight loss. The individual looks good, has more energy and often has a glow about them. Dramatic or rapid weight loss is more alarming. The individual’s eyes show fatigue, their skin is an unhealthy shade and their energy level is almost nonexistent. If a caregiver is skipping out on meals, eating an unhealthy diet or losing their appetite due to their responsibilities, it’s a sure sign that burnout is occurring. 

Now that you know better understand caregiver burnout, its causes and signs, it is time to discuss how caregiver burnout can be prevented. In our next article, we’ll offer some extremely helpful tips to prevent burnout. 

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