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Therapy for Caregiver Burnout

Do you feel you’ve lost yourself in the caregiver role? Are you experiencing caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue? Maybe feelings of sadness, frustration, or resentment are starting to build towards the person you care for. You thought you would receive more support from family, but that fell through. Then maybe it is time to become a caregiver for yourself.

Being there for your loved ones can take on a new meaning when they can no longer fully rely on or care for themselves due to age or illness. Whether it is a chronic illness, recuperation, or disability, caregiver duties can be a lot to deal with for anyone. It can come with intense feelings of stress, fatigue, and even isolation, as you would be spending most of your time with the person you are playing the role of a caregiver to.

Many of us would simply put on our big girl or big boy pants to play the caregiver role to a loved one without any prior experience with caregiving or any resources for helping ourselves when things get tough (which they will). You will have to deal with the many little tasks of a caregiver that will leave you physically drained. You will have to manage the emotions of the person you are caring for, which frankly is not always gratefulness and can go full range from rage to aggression to guilt and even entitlement.

You worry when they seem not to get better, and you worry when they are not getting better in the way their medical provider has predicted and sometimes you have to accept that they might never get better, and this is a “new normal” for you both. Having some time alone can begin to feel like an extreme sport, and guilt soon becomes second nature.

Caregiver duties can spill over into other aspects of your life, like your friendships, relationships, or career. Being a caregiver is not easy, as it can take a toll on your mind, body, and spirit. You become overwhelmed with caregiver responsibilities, experience fatigue, or even withdraw. This leads to unhealthy communication patterns within the relationship between you and whomever you care for.

Unfortunately, many people are stuck in these feelings of stress, isolation, and fatigue and are constantly on edge. Caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue are issues that many caregivers experience.

As of 2020, AARP reports that 53 million adults in the US are caregivers, 61% women and 39% men. 23% of Americans report a decline in their health due to caregiving. The most recent stats from the Family Caregiver Alliance estimate that nearly 20 percent of family caregivers suffer from some form of depression. 

They also report evidence showing that most caregivers are not well–prepared for their role and provide care with little or no support.  One-third of these caregivers continue to provide care despite declining health.

When someone else relies on you to live their best possible life, it is hard to think of ‘trivial’ things like practicing self-care, exercising, and talking through your feelings with someone. After all, talking to someone will not make the person you love get better, or so you would think. But the fact is it would. You cannot pour from an empty cup; it is only if you are living your best life that you can help someone else live.

Therapy for caregiver burnout is a good way to regain control of your feelings and become more fulfilled as you play your caregiver role. So let’s take a closer look at what caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue can look like.

Caregiver burnout vs Compassion fatigue

In simple terms, caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that can follow helping someone else, either a friend, relative or client, with the activities of daily life and helping them live in the circumstances which could be either illness, injury, disability, or old age.

Caregiver burnout can happen if caregiver responsibilities rest solely on your shoulders or you take on more than you’re capable of or are financially strapped. Caregiver burnout could look like (or feel like):

  • Irritability
  • Anxiousness
  • Lack of energy
  • Feelings of depression
  • Putting their needs before your own
  • Losing interest in what you like 
  • Headaches
  • Body aches
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty concentrating

On the other hand, compassion fatigue has been described as losing the ability to empathize or have compassion for the person you care for. As the primary caregiver, you could experience intense amounts of stress (secondary traumatic stress) due to empathizing with their suffering and traumatic experiences.  Symptoms of compassion fatigue include:

  • Mood swings
  • Increased negative thinking
  • Physical or emotional exhaustion
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Detached feelings

You might not experience all of these symptoms, but that is not an excuse to disregard your feelings. Putting yourself first is the only proven way to become a better caregiver. Therapy for caregiver burnout is not a waste of time.

If you have experienced any of these symptoms at all, therapy for caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue can increase your livelihood and improve your interpersonal relationships. It can help you slowly but surely incorporate the things you love into your life.

Taking care of yourself through therapy can have numerous benefits beyond your relationship with the person you care for and across your personal life and career.

Benefits of therapy for caregiver burnout

  • Help you process your feelings and manage stress better
  • Help you maintain a healthy relationship with your friends and family, partner or spouse
  • Assist you in learning how to set boundaries
  • Build up your problem-solving abilities
  • Improve communication between you and the person you care for
  • Provide resources to caregiver support groups
  • Help work through feelings of guilt
  • Improve your physical health
  • Find new ways to adapt to the role of a caregiver

If you’re interested in starting therapy for caregiver burnout in or experiencing compassion fatigue, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation to find out more. You are deserving of a life outside of your caregiver role; you have a full life to live. Remember, the best caregiver is the best “care taker.”