How do I cope with caregiver burnout?

You want to give your loved one the best care you can, but caring for a loved one with a serious or end-stage illness can be stressful. Whether you’re sharing the responsibility or doing it on your own, caregiving can make it difficult to focus on your own health and wellbeing.

Are you experiencing:

  • Inability to sleep or the desire to sleep all the time?
  • Constant worry or feelings of being overwhelmed?
  • Weight gain or loss?
  • Irritability, sadness or anger?
  • Lack of interest in things you used to enjoy?
  • Pain, headaches or other physical problems?
  • Alcohol, drug or prescription drug abuse?

It may not be enough to get more rest, eat healthy and talk to friends and family.

Ask for Help! 

It’s okay to ask for help. Whether you’re caring for someone with a long-term illness or supporting someone who’s nearing the end of life, there is practical, emotional and spiritual support available so you can:

  • Cope with changes and life transitions
  • Talk to family and friends about your concerns
  • Learn how to manage stress
  • Explore the spiritual aspects of caregiving
  • Create positive caregiving experiences
  • Talk about end-of-life care and make important decisions
  • Learn what to expect as caregiving becomes more complex
  • Find personal meaning in the experience

Get the help you need now!




Is there help for caregiver challenges?

When you add caregiving to your regular life responsibilities, there are many stressors that can put your own health at risk:

  • Concern about your loved one’s decline of health and abilities
  • Lack of control over what is happening in the caregiving experience
  • The amount of time and energy required for caregiving
  • Loss of privacy
  • Conflicts with work and social life because of caregiving demands
  • Disagreements with or a lack of assistance from other family members
  • The relationship you have with the person you are caring for 
  • Financial issues

Your feelings about each of these are directly related to coping with caregiving challenges. Caregivers often put their own needs last and that can cause burnout.

Those who insist on making “me time” an essential part of their routine have more energy, enjoy a more positive state of mind and ultimately are better caregivers. If you are feeling overwhelmed, resentful or just plain exhausted, consider these helpful tips:

  • Learn to say “no”
  • Set limits
  • Assess what is essential and reduce unnecessary activities
  • Delegate jobs that others can do
  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Exercise
  • Get adequate rest
  • Decrease caffeine consumption
  • Avoid overuse of alcohol, tobacco or drugs
  • Lean on friends for emotional support
  • Forgive yourself when needed and know you are doing your best
  • Educate yourself about your loved one’s illness and community resources
  • Laugh every day
  • Seek professional help for support if you feel overwhelmed
  • Listen to music
  • Learn relaxation techniques
  • Attend a support group or educational workshop
  • Write in a journal
  • Revisit activities you enjoyed before you were a caregiver

Also, consider taking advantage of local resources that will help you in your caregiving journey.

Get the help you need now to make you a better caregiver.




How can I talk about illness issues with family and friends?

It is normal to feel apprehensive about discussing your serious illness with family and friends. You may be sharing the information for the first time, be concerned about sparing their feelings or unsure about how they will react. They also may ask a lot of questions when you feel a certain sense of privacy or simply don’t know all of the answers yourself.  

It is extremely helpful, if possible, to have a medical professional—such as a physician or nurse—be present when you have such conversations. Either way, these are the types of questions that should be addressed when talking with family and friends:

  • What is the current state of your illness?
  • What are the various care options you have?
  • What are the benefits of pursuing them?
  • What are the downsides or risks?
  • What are the alternatives?
  • Can you stop treatment and still get relief from pain and symptoms?
  • What are your personal goals of care? Do you want to aggressively “fight” your disease or, if a cure is not possible, seek quality of life through the benefits of comfort care?
  • Are there experts or other resources available to help you make informed decisions?
  • How will you let key people—such as your immediate family and medical team—know what your wishes are?

Help is available to guide these conversations and help your loved ones understand your illness, how it is progressing…and what that means for all of you.

Learn what help is available to assist with difficult conversations