Carer Fatigue and Burnout: What Is and What To Do

By: Katelyn Tasker

Carers Australia defines carers as ‘people who provide unpaid care and support to family members and friends who have a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness, an alcohol or other drug issue or who are frail aged’.

Currently there are over 2.65 million carers across Australia with many working over 40 hours a week.

While caring for a loved one can be very rewarding, given the physical and mental demands it often requires, experiencing fatigue and burnout from the role are very real possibilities. How can you spot if you (or someone you know) is experiencing fatigue or burnout from their role as a carer?

While everyone is different, there are often some tell-tale signs that someone may be beginning to experience fatigue or burnout. These include:

  • feeling anxious,
  • becoming angry or frustrated at the person they are caring for,
  • feeling resentful about their role,
  • withdrawing from social networks,
  • being more short-tempered than usual,
  • physical exhaustion,
  • changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • and a loss of motivation.

Steps to Take Care of Yourself

If you suspect you or someone you know may be experiencing carer fatigue or burnout, it is important to take some action.

A good first step is talking to someone about how you are feeling. A friend, family, members of a support group or a professional counsellor are good places to start.

Another important step is to check-in with yourself about how well you are taking care of your own needs. Are you sleeping well and exercising regularly? Are you eating a balanced and healthy diet, taking the time to socialise and doing things you enjoy?

Taking care of yourself is not selfish – if we neglect our own needs, our ability to help others is compromised. Carers are an important part of Australia’s health care system and so recognising carer fatigue and burnout is essential both for the well-being of those doing the caring and those being cared for.

Check in with yourself about how well you are taking care of your own needs – are you sleeping well, exercising regularly, eating a balanced and healthy diet, taking the time to socialise and doing things you enjoy?

Being a carer can be tough and it is not only ok, but essential, to make sure you are looking after yourself and ask for help if needed. There are highly skilled psychologists equipped to assist with carer fatigue and all forms of burnout if you feel you need support.

Article supplied with thanks to The Centre for Effective Living.

About the Author: Katelyn Tsker has a masters of clinical psychology, has worked in anxiety research, as a school counsellor, and in private practice work for adult mental health in Sydney.

Feature image: Photo by Eduardo Barrios on Unsplash 

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