Burnout is a risk for anyone who experiences high levels of stress at their job. For roles that ensure the well-being of another person—such as for caregivers—that risk may be especially high.
“Caregivers feel stressed out, unhappy, angry at their loved ones, sad, afraid, lonely,” says Nathan E. Goldstein, MD, palliative care specialist at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. “Those are all normal reactions to be having to the stress of caregiving.”
Without an outlet, that stress can lead to burnout. Caregiver burnout is when long-term stress builds up and you feel like you can’t meet the constant demands of caring for someone with a medical condition.
When you have caregiver burnout, you start to lose motivation, and your own health deteriorates. You might feel “trapped” in your role, and your compassion toward the care recipient might start to slip. You may find yourself overreacting to small accidents, resenting or even neglecting your loved one, or showing signs of depression.
Factors That Lead to Caregiver Burnout
By nature, people who are caregivers for a loved one with a medical condition tend to be selfless and compassionate. This can make them prone to forgetting to take care of themselves.
Caregiving can also be demanding and overwhelming. Caregivers might struggle with:
Tips to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
“If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not going to be able to take care of your loved one,” says Dr. Goldstein. It doesn’t help you or your loved one if you think of yourself as a martyr.
To cope with caregiver stress, keep the following tips in mind:
Even if it feels selfish, prioritizing yourself sometimes is good for both you and the care recipient. Putting up with burnout too long can make symptoms worse, so being proactive about managing stress can have long-term benefits.