Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that happens while you’re taking care of someone else. Stressed caregivers may experience fatigue, anxiety and depression. You can reduce your risk of burnout by participating in respite care, joining a support group or talking with a mental health professional.
A caregiver is a person who provides physical or psychological care to someone else. Caregivers help others who aren’t able to help themselves fully on their own due to declining health, an illness, injury or an underlying medical condition like:
This isn’t a comprehensive list, but these are the most common conditions caregivers support. In addition, certain professions — like people who work in healthcare or education — may experience caregiver burnout.
The role of a caregiver could include:
The main responsibility of a caregiver is to make sure the person within their care is safe and healthy.
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Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that can happen when you dedicate time and energy to manage the health and safety of someone else. Caregivers who experience burnout may feel tired, stressed, withdrawn, anxious and depressed. Caregiver burnout can impact a person in various ways, including physically, psychologically, financially and socially.
Burnout feels like a candle that ran out of a wick — it doesn’t have what it needs to continue to provide light. It can occur when you don't get the help you need personally, as you devote all of your time and energy to helping someone else. It can also happen when you try to do more than you’re able to, emotionally, physically or financially.
Your health and well-being matter just as much as the person you’re caring for. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout so you can get the help you need when you need it most.
Caregiver burnout is very common. Studies show that more than 60% of caregivers experience symptoms of burnout.
If at any time you feel overwhelmed, you need someone to talk to or you’re thinking about hurting yourself or suicide, call or text 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (U.S.). Someone is available to help you 24/7.
If your burnout causes resentment toward the person you’re caring for or you feel like you may be hurting that person, reach out for help immediately. You could contact a friend or family member, a healthcare provider, a social worker or a mental health professional.
Everyone’s experience with burnout is different. Caregiver burnout may cause the following feelings:
It’s normal to feel these feelings when you’re burned out. But it’s important not to act on these feelings in a way that could hurt yourself or someone else. Reach out for help when you notice these feelings.
Caregiver burnout happens when you devote the majority of your time, energy and resources to taking care of others that you neglect, forget or aren’t able to take care of yourself. Not caring for your physical, emotional and mental health can severely impact the way you feel and your ability to complete your personal responsibilities.
In addition, other factors that can contribute to caregiver burnout include:
You may be more at risk of caregiver burnout if you:
Caregiver burnout can affect your ability to care for yourself and the person within your care. Caregiving for long periods of time can especially increase the risk of burnout and vulnerability to physical and mental health conditions. You may find yourself delaying preventive check-ups with your healthcare provider, or worse, delaying necessary treatment for a chronic medical condition due to your caregiving responsibilities. If mental health symptoms, such as depression or anxiety, are left untreated, quality of life reduces for both you and your loved one. Your loved one’s well-being can also decline. In rare and severe cases, extreme stress and depression from burnout may be life-threatening to caregivers.
If you feel burned out, you may choose to visit a healthcare provider or a mental health professional for assessment and treatment options. Comprehensive assessments should include an evaluation of mental and physical health symptom. During this time, be honest and open with your provider. If you underplay or deny the validity of your feelings, your healthcare provider won’t be aware of them or be able to help you fully.
There isn’t one solution to treat caregiver burnout. You’ll likely need to try more than one strategy to feel well again. The following may help you manage caregiver burnout:
Respite care is a temporary break for primary caregivers. You can schedule respite care to give yourself a break from caregiving for a few hours, a few days to several weeks. Respite care for the person within your care can happen at home, in a healthcare facility or an adult care center,
Respite care is extremely beneficial for a primary caregiver. It can help you relax and find a balance between your responsibility as a caregiver and your personal life.
Many community organizations offer respite care services. In addition, you can contact the ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center (U.S.) to learn more about what resources are available in your area.
Here are some steps you can take to prevent caregiver burnout:
Recovery from caregiver burnout takes time and patience. Each person who experiences caregiver burnout has a different experience based on how it affects them. You may need to try several different things before you find one or a few that help you feel better. Many people participate in a form of group or talk therapy in addition to self-care techniques like meditation and respite care. It can be difficult to find time for yourself to eat well, exercise and rest. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Resources are available in your area.
There isn’t a set amount of time as to when burnout will go away or get better. It can take several days to weeks to months before you’re well again. Each caregiving situation is different. You can reduce your stress sooner by taking care of yourself, like asking for help so you have time to dedicate to yourself. Burnout doesn’t go away overnight.
If you experience severe stress and depression, seek medical attention. Stress and depression are treatable conditions that can get worse when you have caregiver burnout.
Reach out to the following resources for help with caregiving:
Visit a healthcare provider, social worker or mental health professional if you experience signs or symptoms of caregiver burnout. They can help you take the first step toward feeling better so you can provide the best care for yourself and your loved ones.
Both caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue impact a caregiver.
Caregiver burnout is a feeling of deep exhaustion and stress after caring for another person.
Compassion fatigue occurs when a caregiver takes on the emotional stress and trauma of a person within their care. It causes a lack of empathy (understanding the feelings and situations of someone else) or a lack of care for the person within your care.
Compassion fatigue and caregiver burnout can happen at the same time.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Caregiving is a rewarding and challenging experience. And it’s easy to push your feelings and personal needs aside to give your full attention to the person within your care. As a result, caregiver burnout is extremely common. It can impact your mental and physical health and your ability to provide the best care. One of the most important things you can do as a caregiver is to make time for yourself. It can be difficult to ask for help, too, but remember that you’re not alone. Resources are available to help you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/16/2023.
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