Five Causes of Caregiver Burnout

In my last post, I looked at symptoms of caregiver burnout.

In this post, I want to look at five causes of caregiver burnout.

When we think about caregiver burnout we all imagine that happens because caregivers don’t take time for themselves. And that is true. But there are four insidious causes that can wreak havoc with a caregiver’s mental state.

 Role Confusion

Role confusion can be a cause of caregiver burnout. When we switch from expecting our mom or dad to take care of us, to having to take care of them, it can significantly increase stress. Even when we are in our fifties, the wisdom and reassurance we get from our parents is a real support. Being able to call your mom or dad to talk about the bad day you had is a psychological backstop. When that support is gone, it impacts us. We feel the loss of our mom or dad and we may feel angry or cheated at no longer having that support. This can undermine our mental resilience when taking care of them.


Unreasonable Expectations from Ourselves

We may place expectations on ourselves to ‘be there’ for our mom or dad when they are going through a tough time. And that is important. But we also must be realistic about the nature of the crisis. When care needs are critical, it is important to get it resolved. But once the care needs are sorted out, it is important to reduce the intensity. Caregiving to someone with dementia is a marathon, not a sprint. If you treat it like a sprint, you will burnout.

Also, step back and think about what is going to have a positive effect on your mom or dad’s quality of life. It may be getting other professionals involved so that you can maintain the role of daughter or son. Having some distance from personal care can help your mom or dad retain their role as parent. This is important for their emotional well-being.


Unrealistic Demands from Others

Unrealistic demands can also come from other members of your family. You may have a sister or a brother who is out of town and does not really understand what is happening. They may have expectations about care for mom or dad that don’t consider your reality.

One woman I know of wanted to go south for a trip to see a daughter. Her initial plan was to leave her husband in respite care so that she could enjoy the trip and not worry about him. Her extended family reacted badly, making her feel like she was abandoning him. So, she took him along with her. The result, he was confused and anxious throughout the trip, she was worried and had to maintain hyper vigilance and she did not get the rest she so desperately needed. It was bad for everyone.


Lack of Control or Lack of Resources

Lack of control or lack of resources can also have an impact on caregiver burnout. Taking care of your mom or dad will require money, skills, and people. It is important to realize that you don’t have to provide it all.

Make a list of what you need.   Think about this at some point when you have a quiet moment. Try and list everything from the small to the large. If you don’t know what you need, it is hard to ask. And many people want to help, but they don’t know what would be best.

Recognize that it is hard to ask for help. Especially when you are used to taking care of things yourself. But caring for your mom or dad is going to be a marathon not a sprint, so you need to have a team supporting you. And allowing others to be part of the caregiving journey is a gift to them.


Neglect of Their Own Care

And finally, it is so easy for caregivers to neglect their own care. When your mom or dad gets sick, the focus is on them. This is normal and a natural response to those we love. But it is important that the person who is the primary caregiver has time to recharge their own batteries. This can be hard to self-monitor, but it is important.

How can you tell you are burning out? Read my previous post on signs of caregiver burnout.  If any of those apply to you — step back and recharge. You won’t do the one you love any good if you are no longer able to be part of their care.


Do you need help in the area of Dementia Care?   Check out this available resource:   Fit Minds Family Caregiver Program


As one of the founders and creative minds behind Fit Minds Inc., Nicole has been creating cognitive stimulation therapy programming since 2010. An experienced curriculum developer, teacher and coach, she brings a wealth of experience to creating and teaching the Fit Minds Program. Nicole has trained hundreds of professional and family caregivers who have touched the lives of thousands of individuals living with a cognitive impairment. Nicole also holds a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, a Master’s in Law from Queen’s University specializing in Negotiations and is a Certified Professional Consultant on Aging.

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