Are You Heading for Caregiver Burnout?

Are You Heading for Caregiver Burnout?
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Caregiving can bring many positives into your life -- 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 Caring.com senior medical editor 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.

"It's important for caregivers to be aware of this phenomenon and to find ways to either prevent or minimize it when they realize it's happening," Robbins says.

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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)?

a. Every day

b. Often

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c. Sometimes

d. Seldom or never

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

  1. Every day

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  2. Often

  3. Sometimes

  4. Seldom or never

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

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  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 a 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 the use of alcohol or prescription sedatives?

  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?

This self-test isn't a scientific or diagnostic measure; it's meant 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.

48-42: Keeping your cool (low burnout risk)

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 five-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.

30-41: Feverish (elevated burnout risk)

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 seven ways to find more "me" time. On days when you're feeling stressed, try these five ten-minute pick-me-ups.

18-29: Too hot to handle (high burnout risk)

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.

12-17: Toast (already burned out)

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.

about 1 month 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... Show more 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. Hide

about 1 month 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... Show more 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! Hide

about 1 month 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. 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. Hide

3 months 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... Show more 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 ! Hide

6 months 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... Show more 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 Hide

6 months ago, said...

I am 45 mother of 4 grown children my youngest is 18 207 6ft 1 mentality of a 2 year old autistic and epileptic puts holes in the walls throws tables can't wipe his behind can't bathe himself it is like having a giant 2 year old I am tired my husband and I are best friends we got married at 16 and 18 it's the only thing that keeps us going but it's hard my mom has lung cancer can't take much more I am 45 mother of 4 grown children my youngest is 18 207 6ft 1 mentality of a 2 year old autistic and epileptic puts holes in the walls throws tables can't wipe his behind can't bathe himself it is like having a giant 2 year old I am tired my husband and I are best friends we got married at 16 and 18 it's the only thing that keeps us going but it's hard my mom has lung cancer can't take much more Hide

6 months ago, said...

im so overwhelmed, I'm 26 and I'm still living at home taking care of my sick parents. I was adopted at only a few days old and now that my parents are a lot older because they adopted me when they were middle-aged they have health problems. I have my sister but she has a child and her own stress, i have a brother who is married and has 3 kids so the role has gone to me to be there for them constantly, and of course i love them, but I'm so burned out already and obv they aren't getting any... Show more im so overwhelmed, I'm 26 and I'm still living at home taking care of my sick parents. I was adopted at only a few days old and now that my parents are a lot older because they adopted me when they were middle-aged they have health problems. I have my sister but she has a child and her own stress, i have a brother who is married and has 3 kids so the role has gone to me to be there for them constantly, and of course i love them, but I'm so burned out already and obv they aren't getting any younger. I do want to live my own free separate life from them. Have a successful career and relationship but I'm so focused on helping them that i feel like I'm losing myself with everything including my own depression i deal with. Currently I'm unemployed and left my last job suddenly because of the lack of sleep and stress i was under. I have so much i want to do in life, and yes i am still young but sometimes this all just feels way too overwhelming and at times i just want to cry. I have faith and hope that things will turn around, at some point. But the pain and sadness make me feel completely insane sometimes. Like I'm losing my mind. I'm just writing this because i need to get it out someway. I just feel done but i keep going even though i feel extremely burdened and upset. Hide

6 months ago, said...

im so overwhelmed, I'm 26 and I'm still living at home taking care of my sick parents. I was adopted at only a few days old and now that my parents are a lot older because they adopted me when they were middle-aged they have health problems. I have my sister but she has a child and her own stress, i have a brother who is married and has 3 kids so the role has gone to me to be there for them constantly, and of course i love them, but I'm so burned out already and obv they aren't getting any... Show more im so overwhelmed, I'm 26 and I'm still living at home taking care of my sick parents. I was adopted at only a few days old and now that my parents are a lot older because they adopted me when they were middle-aged they have health problems. I have my sister but she has a child and her own stress, i have a brother who is married and has 3 kids so the role has gone to me to be there for them constantly, and of course i love them, but I'm so burned out already and obv they aren't getting any younger. I do want to live my own free separate life from them. Have a successful career and relationship but I'm so focused on helping them that i feel like I'm losing myself with everything including my own depression i deal with. Currently I'm unemployed and left my last job suddenly because of the lack of sleep and stress i was under. I have so much i want to do in life, and yes i am still young but sometimes this all just feels way too overwhelming and at times i just want to cry. I have faith and hope that things will turn around, at some point. But the pain and sadness make me feel completely insane sometimes. Like I'm losing my mind. I'm just writing this because i need to get it out someway. I just feel done but i keep going even though i feel extremely burdened and upset. Hide

6 months ago, said...

I think I went off the chart. I am currently sick - staying in bed mostly - and had a home care worker to come ( rarely) and I simply asked them to be alert and let the poor woman in. Well, she stood outside and had to call two times before they opened the door. After all the things I do, they cannot even do one simple thing to make my life easier while I am sick? Doc says my blood pressure has suddenly went into the high category. Wonder why? I think I went off the chart. I am currently sick - staying in bed mostly - and had a home care worker to come ( rarely) and I simply asked them to be alert and let the poor woman in. Well, she stood outside and had to call two times before they opened the door. After all the things I do, they cannot even do one simple thing to make my life easier while I am sick? 
 Doc says my blood pressure has suddenly went into the high category. Wonder why? Hide

6 months ago, said...

my score was 29. I guess that means I have burnout. need help. I know I am not alone as being a caregiver. I appreciate other peoples comments on what they are going thru. my score was 29. I guess that means I have burnout. need help. I know I am not alone as being a caregiver. I appreciate other peoples comments on what they are going thru. Hide

7 months ago, said...

Just a note which has nothing to do with content, only with the enumeration on the scoring system: The "A" "B" "C" "D" which is noted in the scoring for evaluation disappears in the actual quiz after question #1. Question #1 has an A, B, C, D. Questions #2-12 have choices listed as 1, 2, 3, 4. Most people probably figure it out, but when the webpage is edited next, you might want to re-insert the A, B, C, D option enumeration system to make it consistent with your scoring system notes. ... Show more Just a note which has nothing to do with content, only with the enumeration on the scoring system: The "A" "B" "C" "D" which is noted in the scoring for evaluation disappears in the actual quiz after question #1. Question #1 has an A, B, C, D. Questions #2-12 have choices listed as 1, 2, 3, 4. Most people probably figure it out, but when the webpage is edited next, you might want to re-insert the A, B, C, D option enumeration system to make it consistent with your scoring system notes. The test itself is quite useful. Hide

7 months ago, said...

When my husband and I got married he was a diabetic and visually impaired but use to cook and do everything for himself. For the last 21 years I have been doing everything. Three years ago he ended up in the hospital with kidoacidosis (condition with diabetes) now he has memory problems and problems with urinating to the point he has to wear pad and diapers. I am suffering with exaustion and I am totally burnt out. I have watched him go from being active to nothing. I love him and just need... Show more When my husband and I got married he was a diabetic and visually impaired but use to cook and do everything for himself. For the last 21 years I have been doing everything. Three years ago he ended up in the hospital with kidoacidosis (condition with diabetes) now he has memory problems and problems with urinating to the point he has to wear pad and diapers. I am suffering with exaustion and I am totally burnt out. I have watched him go from being active to nothing. I love him and just need a break and not think for the both of us. Hide