In a recent essay for USA Today, actor and director Rob Lowe wrote of the stress of being a caregiver for his ailing mother and called for greater awareness of and help for caregiver burnout. Lowe writes that, along with his brother, “we did everything we could to support [his mother], from hospitals to hospice care. This often meant trying to figure out and manage her medical paperwork, medication schedules and in-house help, and continually redefining an ever-changing “new normal” for all of us. I often felt overwhelmed, and that was even with all the support I had from my brothers and colleagues.”
An estimated 44 million adults are unpaid caregivers for at least one family member. With an estimated 74 million baby boomers in 2016 and the United States Census Bureau estimating that in 10 years, over 20% of the American population will be age 65 or older, the number of caregivers is expected to grow.
Caregiving can be a full-time job, and often falls on adult children that are juggling careers while still raising children of their own. In 2017, an Embracing Carers survey found that caregiving affected every part of a caregivers life, from the emotional (49% reported suffering from feelings of depression), to the physical (70% reported feeling tired “most of the time”) and the financial (38% reported feeling financial pressure).
When a person’s resources—emotional, physical, financial—are spread too thinly to be sustainable, they may experience symptoms of caregiver burnout. These symptoms are similar to those of depression, and they include:
You may also notice that the way you care for your loved one is changing:
What can you do if you’re experiencing burnout? As Rob Lowe wrote,
"From my own experience, I can assure you: The person you’re caring for needs you to be at your best. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t have the energy or the means to provide the reliable care that your loved ones need. But what can you do for yourself, especially if you feel like you don’t have enough time as it is for your job, your family and your caregiving duties?
Ask for help."
If you see symptoms of caregiver burnout in yourself, try these strategies:
Please be advised that the information presented here is for information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. All readers are encouraged to discuss any issues or concerns they may have with their behavioral health providers.