Are You Heading for Caregiver Burnout?

Our quiz can help you find out.
caregiver burnout

Caregiving can be incredibly rewarding -- but it's also hard work, physically and emotionally. If you don't take enough self-care to replenish yourself, then caregiver stress, anxiety, and depression can build.

And that puts you on the path for caregiver burnout, a syndrome of mental, emotional, and physical depletion. "Caregiving requires a certain amount of selflessness, but it's important for caregivers to know their limits," says Ken Robbins, a geriatric psychiatrist at the University of Wisconsin who's also board certified in internal medicine. "Caregivers can become so focused on the person they're assisting that they neglect their own needs."

Caregiver burnout interferes with your ability to function. Burnout also raises your risk of chronic depression and other mental and physical ailments, from hypertension and flu to diabetes, stroke, or even premature death. Caregiver burnout is also a leading cause of nursing home placement, when run-down caregivers become too depleted to manage caregiving demands.

What's your caregiver burnout index? Answer the following 12 questions, add up your score (A = 4 points, B = 3 points, C = 2 points, D = 1 point), and learn lifesaving strategies for managing the unique stress of caregiving.

1. How often do you get a good night's sleep (seven or more hours)?

  1. Every day

  2. Often

  3. Sometimes

  4. Seldom or never

2. How often do you keep up with leisure activities that you enjoyed before caregiving?

  1. Every day

  2. Often

  3. Sometimes

  4. Seldom or never

3. How often do you feel irritable or lose your temper with others?

  1. Seldom or never

  2. Sometimes

  3. Often

  4. Every day

4. How often do you feel happy?

  1. Every day

  2. Often

  3. Sometimes

  4. Seldom or never

5. How often do you find it difficult to concentrate?

  1. Seldom or never

  2. Sometimes

  3. Often

  4. Every day

6. How often do you need cigarette(s) or more than two cups of coffee to make it through the day?

  1. Seldom or never

  2. Sometimes

  3. Often

  4. Every day

7. How often do you lack the energy to cook, clean, and take care of everyday basics?

  1. Seldom or never

  2. Sometimes

  3. Often

  4. Every day

8. How often do you feel hopeless about the future?

  1. Seldom or never

  2. Sometimes

  3. Often

  4. Every day

9. How often are you able to relax without using alcohol, prescription sedatives or other substances?

  1. Every day

  2. Often

  3. Sometimes

  4. Seldom or never

10. How often do you feel overwhelmed by all you have to do?

  1. Seldom or never

  2. Sometimes

  3. Often

  4. Every day

11. How often has someone criticized your caregiving or suggested you're burning out?

  1. Seldom or never

  2. Sometimes

  3. Often

  4. Every day

12. How often do you feel that someone is looking after or caring for you?

  1. Every day

  2. Often

  3. Sometimes

  4. Seldom or never

How did you score?

Keep in mind, this self-test isn't a scientific or diagnostic measure; it's designed to help you identify whether your stress level warrants taking steps toward better protecting yourself.

Add up your score. Each A = 4 points, B = 3 points, C = 2 points, D = 1 point.

Low burnout risk
What it means Your heart and head are both in the right place, and your stress-busting reservoirs are full, which helps you to give with grace and good humor. That said, caregiver stress often creeps up without a caregiver realizing it. Protecting your healthful habits is paramount.
What to do Keep yourself well-fueled for caring by making time for yourself every day -- at minimum, aim for several 5-minute pick-me-ups for caregiver stress. If you're in a relationship, know that a healthy marriage or other close relationship can be a source of strength; learn how caregiving couples can make it work.

Elevated burnout risk
What it means You're likely managing caregiver stress reasonably well but falling into a common caregiver trap: Letting yourself sink lower on the daily priority list than is healthy for you. Everyone has an occasional crazy-busy day, but too many of them results in chronic stress -- which erodes well-being and places you at risk for depression, colds, and other illnesses.
What to do Protect your time for self-care by learning 7 ways to find more "me" time. On days when you're feeling stressed, try these 5 ten-minute pick-me-ups.

High burnout risk
What it means Your stress level is probably sky-high. You may already be experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, compromised immunity, and physical exhaustion that can lead to or complicate chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic depression. It's critical that you take steps immediately to lower your stress level, ideally through a combination of better self-care, a shared workload, and outlets for your complicated emotions, including talk therapy and support groups.
What to do In addition to the suggestions in the sections above, learn the five *real* reasons you're stressed and how to tame them. Look into respite care options -- they're an important way to give yourself the break you need.

Already burned out
What it means It's a wonder -- and a blessing -- that you were able to find and take this quiz. You're running on empty, or is it more like barely running? Although you want to do your best for the person you're caring for, realize that your own health is at stake -- and if you don't look out for Number One, you won't be able to help the person or persons in your care.
What to do You need immediate help. Learn how to tell the difference between the normal stress of caregiving and depression and consult with someone you trust -- a doctor, clergyperson, counselor, or therapist, for counseling -- and seek out medical assistance. At minimum, you need a physical checkup. You may also benefit from other therapies or from a break from caregiving that's as short-term as a vacation or as permanent as a relocation of the person in your care.




Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio


7 months ago, said...

I only scored 29 on the quiz. I care for my wife who has Fibromyalgia, severe weakness and a host of other physical problems due to being morbidly obese (she is more than 150 lbs overweight). She has been diagnosed with depression and severe anxiety disorder and has symptoms of OCD and Paranoia. The worst part is that she gets very upset, irrational and mean spirited when I or anyone does anything for her that isn't exactly the way she would do it. I am screaming for help.


9 months ago, said...

I too, as most of us already knew, am also burned out! Naw... Really? I have been caring for my husband with multiple health issues- all of which are life threatening and chronic and eventually terminal. I am the reason he is even still alive! Between copd, two mis diagnosed strokes the 2nd one caused a hyper & very agitated & angry delirium lasting an unheard of time-span of three long yrs, cardiomyopathy, congestive heart disease, ongoing mini strokes, organic(from hospital security using un necessary excessive force and cracking his skull)... and acquired (from strokes) TBI, early onset dementia- from yrs of excessive alcohol use & Complex PTSD.... Now, nearly 5 yrs since the literally overnight & sudden whammy that started it all, I still can not get ANY much desperately needed help! He qualifies for 3-4 hours a day and not one single agency comes thru with anyone to help me with him! The one time that they did, I went to the store and he got mad about something he didn't perceive correctly and without harm, physically turned her toward the door and kicked her out ! No one can handle his mean attitudes, they get scared and run off! He is 6'1" tall and weighs a whopping 140 lbs can't breath well so he is weak and frail.... but his mouth is still at full capacity, just without a correctly functioning brain to direct it! He has family as do I, but no one would help me with him! He was even illegally kicked out of a mental health stabilization short term hospital! Since he had pneumonia and a heart attack, a couple of days after Thanksgiving the year before last, It was bad enough the Dr and nurses were doubtful he would make it thru the night and made sure that I to was aware of this possibility! This got the attention of his oldest son and he began to call regularly at least. Now that I have fought, clawed and scratched wile screaming the entire way trying to get the health care "experts" to correctly care for him (& w/very little success), I can at least feel good knowing he is alive because I kept him alive... thru delirium lasting so long his body organs and functions were literally shutting down, and the countless times he was having minor heart attacks or dangerously low blood pressure drops, and the ER ignored the readings sending him home in my care, He has finally improved enough to take two weeks and visit his oldest son 4 states away! The part that is torturing me the most now is how difficult I am finding it to not feel so lost without him here and not worry about him! I can't sleep, or relax nor can I get anything that I have neglected for so long, done, no matter how badly I want to, either! I feel like I have become dangerously co-dependent! I finally get a long overdue break.... & I don't know how to handle it! This is really traumatizing to me! WTF? I apologize for that bold abbreviation, but it is the best way I can think of to express the intensity I am feeling! (believe me... there is no clear way for me to fully express what I am experiencing now. I need help.... that's all I know. where or how I am going to find it is still very much a mystery! Wow .... telling the world all this was actually a little helpful already! I should find a way to do this more often... It just might be the answer I so desperately need right now.. I


11 months ago, said...

HELP!!!! I'm 29 years old and a single mother to my 8 1/2 year old son who has severe autism. I also have a 2 1/2 year old daughter that I care for by myself. I have no help and I have been burnt out since I had my daughter 2 1/2 years ago. Everyone thinks I will be fine but that's the problem I've been telling myself that for 2 years. I don't know how I managed to live this way this long. I'm on antidepressants but those don't seem to help me pull through either. I am diagnosed with major depression the way it is. My family don't help cuz they have too many hobbies and work too much I guess. My sons dad lives 3 hours away and my daughters dad is in jail for the fifth time since I've known him. He is an alcoholic and was physically and mentally abusive to me. I finally went through and filled a restraining order and since doing so he has left me alone. I don't have friends or a significant other in my life cuz I barely leave my house to grocery shop, take kids to movies, or swimming all by myself. I can't give up on my kids cuz then I will slip into a depression that I fear I won't return. They are my only reason to live. I'm tired of people looking at me in the stores telling me I have my hands full cuz my children are hyper or having screaming fits in the store. I'm at the end of my rope what can I do?


over 1 year ago, said...

Help...I'm having caregiver BURNOUT! Is there any support group in DTLA (downtown Los Angeles) Thanks


over 1 year ago, said...

Just taken the caregiver burnout test my total is 23. I know that I should be taking more care of myself but do not seem to be able to do it.


over 1 year ago, said...

I'm new to being a caregiver. I'm so tired all the time. My patient is my husband.


over 1 year ago, said...

i am toast. What things do u all do and not feel guilty when u lose your temper, or just want to sleep and can not, just do not want to helpwith the falling anymore and people saying they want to help but think coming over for 10 minutes and u have to entertain them when you yourself need to be entertained have a break


over 1 year ago, said...

So, I'm reading the comments below and everyone of us is at the end of our rope, The problem is there is NO caregiver support in most areas, so all we cab do is take this test and affirm what we already know- We'Re unable to cope! So how does that help? Is there an online support group or domeyhing? I certainly haven’t found any.


over 1 year ago, said...

Toast. Yep, that's me. So far beyond fried, KFC doesn't even want me! I'm an only child of an aging mom. I believe I was conceived in an attempt to save her marriage (didn't work). After her divorce, she never remarried. She has multiple health issues and mental issues, so I've basically been taking care of my mom for most of my 47 years...and I'm tired. Tired and sad....and lonely. I fear this is my lot in life...here to care for my mom until she passes, and then what?


over 1 year ago, said...

THANKS


over 1 year ago, said...

I fall under "To Hot To Handle" and I agree. I'm staying sick, I cry all the time over everything, I lose my temper so fast it surprises me!!! I don't know what to do about it, I'm medicated but it's not the answer because it really doesn't address the issues. I don't know of any support groups in my area. If something doesn't happen soon I am going to explode.


over 1 year ago, said...

I am so sad and beyond depressed. My nearby sisters don't come out to help. They flounce in and out for weekends once in a while. Both spend recouperating several times each yr on vacations to nice places. I only got away recently for 5days to dog sit for my sister while she was vacationing. Hardly a break as I cared for six dogs all day. I come back to the house and my elderly parents made a disaster of things. Hired the cleaning lady they fired her. We just had a talk about needing help or they need to go into a rest home. Moms meds are screwed up. I hate that I am so severely depressed. I see a counselor weekly. I have no money though and my car is a wreck. I have applied for jobs and went back to school after my divorce. I lost everything including my kids love until recently. They now talk to me but see their dad all the time. I had to move far away to live w my parents. I work PRN and I am older. I am losing faith. I see my parents emotional immaturity and realize I was raised by two who did the best they could but my dad is a narcissist and mom is hystrionic. I sleep on a couch and have been in the basement for 3 years. Nobody cares what happens to me. Only recently have my sisters been playing polite to me. They have no idea what this is like. Nobody cares. I am a doormat despite insisting otherwise. I am sad to see mom continue to be an alcoholic though I was able to get her to stop a lot of the serious drinking. My dad enables her. Sober, she has the emotional maturity of a three yr old. When she drinks she is verbally and emotionally violent. Always has been and I got the worst of it as a kid. Because of my divorce, I was peniless when the economy flatlined in 08. Employers have proved they are ageists and I am unable to get ft work. I watch my parents age and not appreciate all they have. I wish I had what they did. I cry more now and wish I could go home but there is no home for me. Today is one of those tough days.


over 1 year ago, said...

My score is 22. With my husband having early onset Alzheimer's and other health issues and two children with special needs, it is hard to feel good and concentrate on things that need to be done. I am struggling with the need to work or to stay at home because of the need for insurance or need for medications for my son who is 15 and just got out of the mental hospital. My husband is just ready to give up and has said that he had hoped he would not know anything by the time our circumstances got this bad. Yes, I am at the end of my rope!


over 1 year ago, said...

My score was a 22. I have my parents 84 and 74 living with me and a handicapped husband in a wheelchair. I'm 50 yrs. old and worn out emotionally, spiritually and physically.


almost 2 years ago, said...

I believe a have to break a promise of taking care of my mom for ever. I am so burnt out! Its been three heart attaches, dementia, congestive heart failure, Alzheimers, along with being bipolar all her life. I started when she was 63 and she is now 83. She never sleeps even with meds, she can be nice, she can get nasty. She is incontinent now. I am now 55. She has helped us tons paying bills. It is my full time job taking care of her and she does pay me, its how we pay certain bills. But I want a life.............I want to run a way and breath and just live the rest of my life. I have brothers who never come to see her. I am with her 24/7 now as she can not be left alone. I do pay someone 25 dollars an hour so I can leave for two hours once a week. I love her dearly, I just do not want to care for her anymore. I want to visit her with a happy face !


about 2 years ago, said...

I took the 12 question quiz the score I got isn't on there it was so low the lowest is the 17 I got lower than that yeah I'm burn out big time and I see no relief in sight I actually told my husband I was leaving him to his mother because I can't deal with her anymore I've gone through my mother and father I don't have to do this but I love him and right now I really don't know if I do or not love him that is I don't know what to do anymore the doctor she seems to think I need nothing to learn the 12 steps to relieve stress that's all she says to me I can't talk to nobody because there's no one I can talk to I don't have any friends anymore my life is my husband his mother in the cat that's all I have