One of the most problematic issues amongst older adults is caregiver burnout. So many spouses and family members change roles as they grow older and turn into caregivers. This might be either for older adults who are ill and/or older adults who need support and have become dependent. 

Defining Burnout

For us to understand what caregiver burnout is, one would need to understand what burnout is. Burnout is the state of exhaustion, being tired and no longer having the capacity to deal with certain issues. Burnout impacts all domains of human life – and has effects on the physical, mental, emotional, and social states of an individual. Therefore, caregiver burnout comes about when someone who is taking care of a person in need, feels burnt out.

Caregiver burnout comes with a host of consequences, but how does it come about? 

Burnout can come about primarily because caregivers feel and perceive that they are not getting the help that they feel they need to take care of the person in need. When that happens, caregivers start feeling like they must do more and more to take care of the person in need, oftentimes biting off more than they can chew. This is a major precursor to caregiver burnout and should be identified and dealt with straight away. Whilst this is not always easy, as discussed previously there are a number of services that one may avail themselves of to alleviate the burden of caregiving stress. 

As aforementioned, caregiver burnout comes with a host of consequences, but to get that, one would need to understand and notice signs of caregiver burnout. Oftentimes, caregiver burnout can appear through:

● Ignoring your own needs,

● Becoming anxious,

● Feeling tired and overwhelmed most of the time,

● Noticing a change in your daily habits, like your appetite decreasing or your sleep becoming more disturbed,

● Feeling helpless and hopeless,

● Becoming impatient, irrational, and even sometimes becoming more frustrated with your close ones and the older adult in need of help,

● Possible depression,

● Becoming more susceptible to illness.

Caring for a loved one is truly a rewarding experience because you are helping someone who is vulnerable and who is in need. However, this should not always come at the expense of your own needs and health. Talking to a professional about dealing with the heaviness of caregiving, accessing services that are there to ameliorate the burden, engaging in hobbies and activities that distance your thoughts from the heaviness of the situation, as well as understanding your limits are all ways to help yourself in dealing with caregiver burnout. 

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Mr Yaser Teebi works as a Clinical Psychology Practitioner at Willingness, and works with patients with complex issues, including depression, anxiety, trauma, chronic pain, grief and cognitive impairment. Mr Teebi has graduated from the following degrees with Merit: Bachelor of Psychology (Hons), a Master of Gerontology and Geriatrics , and a Master of Psychology in Clinical Psychology, all at the University of Malta. He is currently reading for a PhD in Clinical Psychology and Geriatrics at the University of Birmingham.