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.
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.