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Professional Caregiver Burnout: Checklist, Symptoms, Prevention

Dear Allegra:

I am a professional caregiver. For the last 5 years I have been working exclusively with seniors who have Alzheimer’s. Since I lost my grandfather to the disease almost fifteen years ago, I have been very passionate about helping others who live with this diagnosis.

My family’s own experience gives me unique insight in to how difficult this disease is to manage. And how emotional Alzheimer’s disease can be for everyone involved in the senior’s life.

The past six or seven months have been especially draining. I have developed insomnia and also seem to be battling a serious case of the blues.

As a single mother, I don’t have the luxury of taking a few months off work to rejuvenate.

Do you have any suggestions?



Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout

Dear Karen:

You are so right in noting how difficult the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is on the senior, their family, and the caregivers who work so hard to support them. It sounds like you are experiencing caregiver burnout.

The disease causes behavioral challenges, such as agitation and wandering, that can leave both family and professional caregivers exhausted. Sometimes they don’t even realize they are exhibiting the classic signs of caregiver burnout.

This caregiver burnout checklist is one you should carefully review:

  • Fatigue that a good night’s rest doesn’t help relieve
  • Tearful and quick to cry
  • Irritable or easily angered
  • Feelings of persistent sadness you can’t seem to shake
  • Sleep problems—either sleeping too much or too little
  • Unintended weight loss or weight gain

Since it doesn’t sound like taking extended time off from your professional caregiver role is feasible for you, I do have a few suggestions that might help:

  • Can you change the type of clients you work with for a while? Instead of caring for those with Alzheimer’s, perhaps you could work with seniors who have different care needs?
  • Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. They will likely have some suggestions, especially when it comes to helping you overcome your insomnia.
  • Another healthy way of managing caregiver stress is by paying careful attention to your diet. Be sure it includes fruits, vegetables, and lean protein every day.
  • Even moderate exercise can help overcome and prevent caregiver burnout. Walking, biking, yoga, and swimming offer many mental and physical benefits.

I hope these tips help you take care of you, Karen!

Kind regards,