Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion due to the stress of providing extensive care to a loved one who can no longer take care of themselves. It may be accompanied by a change in attitude from positive and caring to negative and overwhelmed. Burnout can occur when caregivers don’t get the help they need, or if they try to do more than they are able, physically, emotionally, or financially.
The Alzheimer’s Association has estimated that by 2025, the number of Vermonter’s living with Alzheimer’s will reach 17,000. In 2021, 26,000 Vermonters were acting as unpaid caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementia by helping with household chores, activities of daily living, or transportation; managing finances; managing medication and behavioral symptoms; and finding and supervising additional support services. An Alzheimer’s Association poll indicates that in the year before the death of a person living with dementia, 59% of caregivers felt they were “on duty” 24 hours a day. As a result, caregivers are 30% more likely to experience depressive symptoms due, in part, to social isolation, direct economic cost of job loss and absenteeism and deteriorating personal health.
If Vermont’s aging population is to thrive through in-home care and continued community involvement, it is important to ensure that caregivers are given the support they need to take care of themselves while providing the best care they can for their loved ones. To that end, it is vital to know the signs of caregiver burnout so it can be addressed early:
Common Signs of Caregiver Burnout
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and other loved ones
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless, and helpless
- Changes in appetite, weight, or both
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Getting sick more often
- Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
Tips to Help Relieve Stress
- Pinpoint a confidante that you can vent to. This can be anyone (i.e., a friend, therapist, etc.).
- Make realistic goals that you know you can accomplish. Don’t try to do everything or go above and beyond.
- Take the Powerful Tools for Caregivers class. These classes provide you with tools to help prevent burnout and are offered right here at Age Well.
- Find some respite, whether it is a paid service, friends helping out, or a volunteer from Age Well.
- Stay educated about your loved one’s disease and remain realistic about how it is progressing.
- Make sure you take care of yourself: eat healthily, sleep well, set aside time to unwind.
- Join a support group.
These are just a few of the ways you can relieve the stress you encounter as a caregiver. You are encouraged to seek other ways through your personal and community supports.
Remember that taking care of yourself will help you to take better care of your loved one.
How You Can Help a Caregiver
If you are not a caregiver, but you know or support a caregiver, there are things you can do to help.
- Offer to assist with household tasks and be specific! Helping to take out the trash, walk the dog, or make a meal, may seem small, but makes a huge difference for caregivers.
- Be an empathetic listener. Often, a caregiver needs to spend time with someone and talk.
- Call Age Well at 1-800-642-5119 to make a referral. If you think a caregiver needs additional support, we have case managers and volunteers dedicated to helping them.
- If they say no to help, keep trying. It’s not always easy to accept help.
- Become a respite volunteer! Age Well trains and coordinates a cohort of volunteers to provide respite for caregivers. It is an excellent way to support a caregiver and give back to your community. Learn more about volunteering.
If you or someone you know is a caregiver that needs support, please call the Helpline at 1-800-642-5119.