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Mind Your Head
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Mind Your Head
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Learn More

If you believe that you or someone you know may be suffering from depression or have suicidal thoughts, you can learn more by clicking on the links below.

Getting Help

Mind Your Head is your link to help and a happier life. A qualified counsellor can talk to you about issues you may be experiencing and help you implement strategies to be happy and healthy again.

You can find a qualified Counsellor in your vicinity here: Counsellor Search

If you are experiencing overwhelming feelings of grief, pain, loss, anxiety or having thoughts of ending your life, please call the Lifeline Crisis Line immediately.

Lifeline Crisis Support

13 11 14

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caregiver burnout

You may have heard the term “burnout” before and not really thought that it would ever apply to you. It’s true that many people with high-stress corporate jobs – such as executives – get burned out. But anyone who feels overworked and undervalued is at risk for burnout. It is a state of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion in which there is a change in attitude: from positive and caring to unconcerned or even negative. Caregiver burnout happens when caregivers attempt to do more they are able to do or give more than they have to give: physically, emotionally, and/or financially (WebMD, 2012; Smith, Segal, & Segal, 2012).

While mental health experts acknowledge that there are many causes of burnout, some of the common factors in caregiver burnout revolve around the problem that caregivers often are so busy caring for others that they tend to neglect their own physical, psychological, and spiritual needs. The many demands made on a caregiver can seem overwhelming, leading to fatigue and eventual burnout. To make matters worse, these factors are often also in play:

Role confusion

The person used to be only your father, mother, wife, or friend. Now they are also majorly dependent on you for their care, and the relationship – and the balance of power or equality of it – inevitably changes. Navigating through the role changes and reversals is often an unconscious process and may be just as stressful as any of the physical care rendered.

Unrealistic expectations

You may be thinking – expecting! – that your attention to the care recipient will result in positive outcomes for the person: that they will be healthier, or at least happier or more comfortable for your efforts. That may not be the case, and facing a worsening condition on the part of your cared-for person may be just as demoralising to you as caregiver as it is for the person who is ill. Too, the care recipient may have unrealistic expectations of you, not realising how much you are already doing, or how hard it is to stay in the game continuing to do it, so that which you are doing may not be appreciated.

Lack of control

Many caregivers get frustrated by a lack of resources, skills, and money to organise and maintain their loved one’s care. You may be disappointed with the efforts of the medical system, or perhaps the community health care system which your cared-for person is plugged into, but you may not be able to do anything about the way in which the person is cared for (or not).

Unreasonable demands

Caregivers whose sole responsibility is the care for their loved one may place unreasonable demands on themselves, especially when the person is their exclusive responsibility: that is, no one else is helping with the care effort (WebMD, 2012)

Mystery factors

Many caregivers understand the work-related causes of impending burnout (which are listed on the previous screen). But would you recognise (or would you be in denial about) these other causes?

  • Lifestyle causes of burnout: these include times when you are working too hard and not socialising or relaxing enough; when you do not ask for or sometimes even accept help from others to lighten the load, when you do not have supportive relationships to help you get through.
  • Personality traits which contribute: the existence of perfectionistic tendencies in yourself: your view that nothing you do is good enough. Do you notice when you are being pessimistic about yourself and the world? What about your need to achieve, or a possible need to be in control (Smith et al, 2012)?

Burnout is a gradual process that occurs over an extended period of time: not overnight. But it is serious. A study of family caregivers found that those who experience caregiving-related stress have a 63% higher mortality rate than non-caregivers of the same age (Sollitto, 2013). And caregiver burnout is insidious: it creeps up on people, rendering them ineffective or unable to continue: for some, well before they are aware of what is hitting them.

Mind Your Head
Australian Counselling Association

ACA - Australian Counselling Association

Mind Your Head is an initiative of the Australian Counselling Association, a national professional association for qualified Counsellors.