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Understand the symptoms of caregiver burn out

By Veita Bland, M.D. / September 24, 2021

There are many different groups of people, who give in the service of others in this world. One of the most giving are the individuals, who unselfishly give to their family and friends in the service of keeping them alive. I bow my head to the caregivers of this world. They come in all sexes, ages and different circumstances. Their uniting factor is that they provide care to people, who cannot care for themselves. They make sure that their clients are able to exist.

Deshema Shuler, a licensed clinical social worker, calls caregivers the glue for many families. She notes that the job they have may be all consuming and extremely difficult. This is true, especially when we see family members assume this role. This valuable and necessary role may not be valued or totally understood by other family members. Many times, caregiving has become something that is just expected to be done. Often, the sacrifices made are not appreciated. This can indeed be unfortunate for the caregiver, not to mention the dynamics and power plays that may be involved in that family.

My concern is that many caregivers in these situations give until there is nothing left of themselves to give. They totally neglect themselves and we see the all too familiar scenario where the caregiver becomes ill and may even die while caring for a sick or aging relative.

To this end, here are some suggestions for caregivers who tend to the health and daily needs of their family and friends:

  1. Remember, you must take time for yourself. This is a very stressful job. Finding the time to do this can be extremely difficult, especially when there is no one else to help. Seek resources that provide a respite each and every week. If nothing more than going out for a ride in the car, there should be some time that you are not responsible for your charge. Family and friends should make sure this happens and they should happily, volunteer some time.
  2. Do not neglect your own health. Make your own dental, colonoscopy, eye and other routine medical appointments. How can you adequately care for others when you are not caring for yourself?
  3. Set boundaries for your time, energy and how others treat you. Make sure you are getting adequate sleep.
  4. Develop a plan or schedule for the care of your charge. Having a set schedule brings order to chaos. Bathing, meals, administering medications, visitation of others and other activities will flow better.
  5. Have regular set times when you can debrief others about what is happening. Having to relay the same story over and over to different people can be wasteful of time and quite exhausting.
  6. Speak with the caregiver for your charge and develop respite plans. Some insurance providers will pay for a week of care (respite) at a time. Call your insurance provider and find out what services are available. Find out if home health is an appropriate venue for your loved one’s needs.
  7. Understand and recognize the symptoms of caregiver burn out. It is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. It may be accompanied by a change in attitude from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned. When you are irritable or cannot concentrate on your loved one’s care, this can be dangerous for the caregiver and their charge. Take steps to get away when you see these symptoms occurring.
  8. Understand that you are giving someone else the gift of life. Your own life though should not be the sacrifice.

Caregiving by family members is not always the best way to care. Be gentile with yourself and recognize that there are times when placement in a facility is indeed the best way to be a caregiver to a loved one. No need to feel any guilt, do what is best for all involved.

Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at


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