For the media

How to prevent burnout when caring for a loved one

By The Health News Team | November 13, 2023
Mother and daughter cooking dinner in the kitchen

Caring for a loved one can be challenging. It takes courage, patience and persistence. But most of all, it takes the unwavering support of family, friends and the community.

Today, about 40 million Americans serve as unpaid caregivers for an older adult with chronic illness or conditions that prevent them from being able to care for themselves. According to AARP, more than 60% of those people also juggle a full- or part-time job, and many are caring for two generations at once.

While it’s common to experience burnout, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. There are many resources available to help maintain a balanced, healthy life while taking care of others.

Identifying your support system

When caring for a loved one, Anais Allen, a medical social worker with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, recommends being mindful of your own health and well-being first.

“Lean on your support system,” she says. “And if that support system is limited, get connected in whatever way you can.”

Allen helps coordinate a free monthly support group for anyone who is providing care to a loved one and seeking support or connection with other caregivers in the community. Topics vary based on each participant’s difficulties, she says, but they often discuss grief and loss, dementia support, difficult conversations, long-term care planning and other challenges.

Participants benefit from shared tips and resources, Allen says, as well as from support and validation of their experiences.  

Making time for self-care

Allen’s best advice for caregivers: practice self-compassion. “This work is difficult, so give yourself some grace and remember that rest and personal time result in a more effective caregiver,” she says.

To prioritize your own well-being while caring for others, consider the following tips:

  • Make sleep a priority. Getting enough sleep is fundamental for your health and well-being. If possible, aim for at least seven hours each night. To improve your sleep quality, avoid caffeine and alcohol several hours before bedtime.

  • Stay active and eat healthy. Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day and fueling your body with nutritional foods can have a significant impact on mood and help reduce stress and anxiety.

  • Maintain your hobbies. Continue engaging in activities you enjoy outside of your caregiving responsibilities. This can provide a sense of identity and purpose beyond caring for a loved one.

  • Celebrate small achievements. Acknowledge and celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. Recognizing your efforts can boost your self-esteem.

Finding local resources

Free time is cherished and rare, especially when caring for yourself and a loved one. Consider using adult day care centers, hiring home care providers, and getting help with meals to alleviate the burden of caring for someone around the clock.

"It's never too soon to ask for help,” says Dan McNamara, program coordinator with the Sharp Grossmont Hospital Community Resource Center. “Chances are there's something here you can tap into it.”

The Community Resource Center offers resources and guidance to caregivers in the San Diego community. This includes a free three-part basic caregiving class and help connecting with medical supply companies for their loved ones' needs.

"We're the place that you can start, and keep coming back to, when navigating care for your loved one,” McNamara says.

Several other local agencies also provide resources for caregivers, including:

Know that it’s common to feel overwhelmed. But finding the right balance between caring for your loved one and yourself can make all the difference.

"Get ahead of the difficult times and be proactive,” McNamara says. “Prioritizing your well-being early on is an essential part of the caregiving journey.”

Learn more about caregiving; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

You might also like:

Get the best of Sharp Health News in your inbox

Our weekly email brings you the latest health tips, recipes and stories.