Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout Not to Miss

It is a rare occasion when either speaking to or meeting with family caregivers that I do not have tucked away this invaluable list of signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout to share with them before I leave.    My advice to caregivers is to print this list out and place in a plastic sleeve and tape it to your bathroom mirror.  Every single day you should be aware of these signs – often that creep in slowly- and zap our ability to cope, quickly leading to caregiver burnout.

What should you do if you see yourself exhibiting these signs or symptoms?  Be proactive, and seek out a caregiver support group, licensed professional counselor, Stephen Minister or pastoral counselor at your faith community or a healthcare professional.

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude — from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned. … Caregivers who are “burned out” may experience fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression.  It can often lead to anger, rage, or guilt that results from unrelieved caring for a chronically ill dependent.  

With over 44 million unpaid caregivers in the US alone,  it is imperative that we are all looking out for others – this fast-growing and vulnerable population who desperately needs support, education, and access to resources.   Caregiver burnout can lead to neglect and abuse for those whom they are caring for.  It is a serious public health issue and too often goes unnoticed as caregivers tend to isolate themselves, especially when they are stressed.

Please print this list out and share with others who are caring for a loved one:

Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout

  1. Altered eating patterns
  2. Increased sugar consumption or use of alcohol or drugs
  3. Increased smoking or strong desire to start again
  4. Frequent headaches or sudden onset of back pain
  5. Increased reliance on over-the-counter pain remedies or prescribed drugs
  6. Irritability
  7. High levels of fear or anxiety
  8. Impatience
  9. The inability to handle one or more problems or crises
  10. Overreacting to commonplace accidents
  11. Overreacting to criticism
  12. Feelings of anger toward a spouse, child or older care recipient
  13. Alienation
  14. Feeling emotional withdrawal
  15. Feeling trapped
  16. Thinking of disappearing or running away
  17. Not being able to laugh or feel joy
  18. Withdrawing from activities and the lives of others
  19. Feeling hopeless
  20. Loss of compassion
  21. Resenting the care recipient and/or the situation
  22. Neglecting or mistreating the care recipient
  23. Frequently feeling totally alone even though friends and family are present
  24. Wishing simply “to have the whole thing over with”
  25. Playing the “If only” games; saying over and over “if only this would happen’; or “If only this had not happened”

Pam Brandon is President/Founder is AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.   For more information on our training for professional and family caregivers, please visit our website.

15 thoughts on “Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout Not to Miss”

  1. This is really interesting, You’re an excessively skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and stay up for in quest of extra of your wonderful post. Additionally, I’ve shared your website in my social networks!

  2. Stumbled across this page. what an eye opener. I have been beating myself up for so long for my lack of energy ,drive and constant depression.
    This all makes sense. For some reason having a label for it helps.
    Now maybe I can take some steps to dealing with it and getting myself back.

  3. Thank you for the read. My eyes have opened up and realize that these are a few steps to improve myself as a caregiver.

  4. I found this googling caregivers. I have been “caring” for my mother over the last 5 yrs. I am resentful, angry, emotionally bereft and exhausted. She treats me rudely, is combative and sometimes, Im ashamed to say I hate her. I could probably be in therapy for years. She has sucked the life out of me. I hired outside help and she still was never satisfied. Now in assisted living (just 7 days) she calls incessantly demanding her things -(yelling at me never my sister ) I am the youngest of two. I have vented here more than anyone wants to read, my apology. I am glad to know Im not alone in this nightmare.
    All used up in Ohio

  5. I have always been one to stay with it no matter what. I is to me, like a long distance race for it is a matter of keep going until you see the finish line. Unfortunately with Alzheimer’s, the finish line is not quite clear so it turns out to be one long, unending race. I am in the throws of meltdown at the moment and am overcome by paranoia and guilt of how I am doing in the process of taking care of my wife and what people are saying on the outside about my degradation as a healthy person. I need help and this week is a must to make a loud noise about desperation and request for assistance.

  6. Randy, thank you for sharing your feelings. Know that you are not alone. Getting the help you need is paramount, especially once you’ve reached a point of burnout, which sounds like you have. I highly encourage you to immediately get some respite care for your wife so you can take care of yourself. You should seek out a counselor who specializes in helping those who are caring for others, especially Alzheimer’s disease. Your local Alzheimer’s Association or Area Agency on Aging can help with this service. Also, I would suggest you make an appointment to see your doctor and be open as to the struggles you are facing. There is help, and you cannot do this alone, no matter what the circumstances. I sincerely hope you take these suggestions to heart. Warmly, Pam

  7. Hi Rachel
    I can totally relate to all those feelings. I cared for my elderly aunt after she didnt like 2 nursing homes and convinced me she could manage herself in a home environment with some minimal outside help ie showering. She was fully mentally competant and could make her own decions in re money, care what she wanted to buy or give away. She never left the house on any social outings and i ended up being like her slave. As she put half her money towards the house and we put half of ours, she felt resentment and complained about it and always reminded us of it. She refused to look after her health properly and complained about every little thing. It was a nightmare. Then when her health declined and she went into respite care she signed herself into the nursing full time. What should of been a relief turned into a further nightmare when her fees for the nursing home arrived she wanted us to pay for them and then started spreading lies about her time living with me. I was then accused of elder and financial abuse. I kept records and signed financial statements but then she just started saying I only signed whatever was put in front of me. Which was untrue. Of course relatives were only going to believe the frail old lady in the nursing home. My father her brother then tried to threaten us and demanded money. Then on the day he went ahead to put in a elder abuse report she died. It didnt finish there when the funeral came around we were sent a text msg stating my aunt did not want us there. As the only relative who uprooted my life to help and support her over the past 6 years to help her out of two nursing homes care for her and give her the opportunity to live in a beautiful home i am now ostracized by all my relatives and made out to be the
    Worstperson alive. Thank God i am a religious person because the mental toll this has taken is off the charts. The stress of constantly going out of my way to help her then the carers burnout on top of
    being falsely accused of carers abuse and then shunned by the entire family is indescribable. It is going to take time to heal those mental scars. Everyone talks about elder abuse but carers abuse is real.

  8. I care gave for my mom for ten years without help, vacation or a break. My mother recently passed away (two weeks ago) and am feeling guilty for feeling a sense of relief and release. I find that I am tired quite a bit. I liken it to everything that I went through (almost yes to everything on the list) catching up and releasing. I would like to think that I am beginning the process of healing for myself and coming back to me. I felt guilty just going to the grocery store yesterday thinking I had to be home straight away to relieve the person staying with my mom while I did a little shopping. Then, I felt guilty for remembering that I could shop at my leisure without having to worry any longer. I just wish I wasn’t so blasted tired. I am thinking it comes with ten years catching up. I am SO GLAD to have found your article. It surely has helped to realize that there are other who are going through the same thing and are beginning to heal as well. Thank you for publishing your post.

  9. I am so sorry for what you have gone through. I hope you are on the way to recovery, at least physically, to come out on the other side. My mom was the same in many respects. Money was stolen, all I wanted was her house and didn’t care about her, on and on. There were times when I wished she would just not talk to me so I didn’t have to listen to the drivel. I, too, gave my mom the best I could. A good life, a nice home, anything she wanted…it was never enough. I got so burned out after ten years? I almost couldn’t stand to hear her voice. One more glass of water added to the ten glasses already on her nightstand, wanting dinner at 3 in the morning when she already ate earlier. Catching the microwave on fire countless times, turning the lights on at all hours, getting combative and actually physically hurting me…it’s no wonder I am so blasted tired now. Then, the guilt comes in because I feel relief at not having to worry any longer. I catch myself hearing a bump in the house thinking she’s fallen. I don’t have to clean the stairway from her using it as her bathroom or clean up after her after she pottied her pants. Geez, I sound like a loon. On the one hand, she was my mom. On the other hand? She almost took my life. My attorney confided in me that he thought I was dying when I first went to see him in September. Now? He said that I don’t even look the same. Peace is being restored. But, I am exhausted.

  10. Sounds a bit like you and the person in the comment above you were experiencing narcissistic abuse. :-(. It is very traumatizing in addition to the caregiver burnout. I wish you both peace and healing.

  11. I don’t think there’s any way to circumvent feelings of guilt, and especially when you’re a full time caregiver for so long. In time this will lessen. Grief counseling helps a lot! Good luck!

  12. The following are some of the more common symptoms of caregiver burnout.

    You have much less energy.
    Your own health is deteriorating. For instance, you easily catch a cold or a bout of flu, experience elevated blood pressure or have injured yourself when trying to transfer your loved one into a wheelchair.
    You’re always exhausted, even after you sleep or have a break.
    You ignore your own needs, either because you are too busy or because you are no longer concerned.
    Caregiving gives you little satisfaction even if your life revolves around it.
    You have difficulty relaxing, even if assistance is accessible.
    You become unusually impatient, irritable, or argumentative with either the person you’re caring for or with others, or both.
    You sometimes feel alienated, helpless and hopeless.
    You withdraw yourself from your family, friends, and loved ones.
    You are more easily irritated and frustrated or become angry with petty situations.
    Your gentle, unhurried strategy to caregiving is diminishing or simply disappearing.
    You raise your voice more often at your loved one, then feel angry with yourself and guilty later.
    Your family experiences dysfunction and your care for your loved one may actually cause harm to your family.
    You tend to miss or forget appointments.
    You lose interest in activities you once enjoyed.
    You begin to exhibit feelings of wanting to cause harm to yourself or your loved one.
    You have difficulty in concentrating.
    You notice a change in your sleep pattern.
    You feel anxious about your future.
    Your ability to be compassionate diminishes.
    You overreact to criticism.

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