Helping the Helpers: Suggestions from caregivers to prevent caregiver burnout

The U.S. has countless informal caregivers taking care of spouses, families, and friends in need. However, many of these caregivers report that their own health suffers too. Here are a few tips to preventing burnout as a caregiver.

There are 53 million informal caregivers in the U.S. An informal caregiver is an unpaid person who is taking care of a spouse, partner, family member, friend, or neighbor who has health problems and is unable to take care of themselves.

However, according to 2020 data from the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 21% of these caregivers report their own health as fair or poor as a result of caregiving.

Taking care of a loved one with health problems is challenging.

“Caregiving can be a 24-hour a day role,” said Nicole E. Werner, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

That leaves no time for a caregiver to take care of themselves.

“I neglected myself 100%. I was down to a size 4. My hair was matted. I wasn’t caring for myself at all,” caregiver Christine Nash said.

It is very common to experience caregiver burnout, where you are in a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. In fact, the NAC and AARP study found 40% of caregivers report feeling emotionally strained.

So, what can be done to prevent caregiver burnout? Here are tips straight from other caregivers on how to take care of their health and prevent burnout.

First, Gail Morgan says, “Don’t isolate yourself.” Join a support group with other caregivers.

Also, allow yourself to take breaks to get out of the house to visit friends or even pamper yourself.

Another tip, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Naveena Jaspal suggests, “Get your siblings or your family involved from the get-go.” Having more people taking part in the care means there are more people to share in the workload.

And Nash says, “Taking care of yourself is so important, so, so important.”

And make sure you don’t skip your own doctor’s appointments. If you’re not taking care of your own health, you won’t be in the best condition to take care of someone else’s.

One last tip: Wake up 15 minutes earlier and use that time just for you. You can spend it enjoying your morning coffee, writing in a journal, or meditating.