How to Prevent and Reduce Caregiver Burnout

September 2, 2022 Kimberly Anderson-Mutch

Assisted living and long-term care facilities require a lot of energy and dedication from their staff. Whether workers take care of an elderly, ill, or disabled patient, being a caregiver is hard. Providing care and support can be very demanding and may lead to workers feeling depleted.

Caregiver strain and burnout are major concerns for care facilities. Taking precautions to minimize burnout is important for the well-being of everyone involved in the facility.

When management understands what signs to look out for and what proactive measures to take, facilities can offer help for caregiver burnout and minimize the negative impact on staff and patients alike. 

Caregiver burnout refers to the physical and emotional exhaustion of nurese

What Is Caregiver Burnout?

Caregiver burnout, sometimes called caregiver fatigue syndrome, refers to the physical and emotional exhaustion of people who provide support for long-term care patients. Caregivers may develop feelings of resentment or weariness towards their work. In fact, 36% of caregivers identify their role as highly stressful.  

Long-term involvement in the emotionally demanding situations that come with caregiving can wear down the staff's abilities. Between caring for patients, supporting colleagues, and taking care of themselves, they can become exhausted physically, emotionally, and mentally. Because caregiving is easily overwhelming, this may interfere with the caretaker's overall happiness and quality of life.

What causes caregiver burnout?

What Causes Caregiver Burnout?

Having the responsibility of providing support for patients with severe health conditions and disabilities is demanding and can contribute to serious exhaustion that interferes with a caregiver's ability to do their job and care for themselves effectively. The following are common causes of caregiver burnout:

  • Increased workload: Staffing shortages lead to increased workloads for caregivers. This means less time for themselves and more demand that can lead to further burnout.
  • Lack of support: Caregivers often lack a support system to help them cope with the negative impacts of their role, especially when it comes to their financial and personal well-being.
  • Emotional demands: It can be extremely emotionally taxing for someone to take care of another for long periods. Caregivers can experience a wide range of emotions from love to guilt to anger on any given day.
  • Antiquated technology: Many caregivers do not have the newest technology available to them to simplify their jobs. Instead, they are using outdated tech that is inefficient and eats up their valuable time.
  • Lack of rest: It is no secret that caregivers have trouble getting a good night's sleep. Anxiety about patients and loved ones can make falling asleep a major challenge, leaving caregivers even more exhausted.
  • Increased stress levels: The emotional and physical strain associated with caregiving leaves many with higher levels of stress. Heightened stress can cause serious ailments like depression or a weakened immune system.
  • Physical demands: Many caregivers are on their feet all day, helping out with moving patients and fetching supplies. The physical demands of the job can worsen feelings of tiredness and leave caregivers feeling depleted.

The Stages of Caregiver Burnout

While caregiving can be extremely rewarding, many factors can lead to overwhelm and high stress levels. If caregivers do not address their physical and emotional exhaustion, this can further develop and have serious repercussions. The following are the stages of caregiver burnout:

1. Stress

Caregiver stress can stem from multiple things, from frustration to sadness. It can be very challenging for a caregiver to accept that the quality of the care they provide may not have much to do with the well-being of the person they are caring for. 

Stress can develop from having so many responsibilities and feeling like the contributions are not enough for the patient. In some cases, the patient's attitude can affect the caregiver if they feel they are not receiving gratitude or appreciation from the people they care for. 

Feeling overwhelmed by caregiving responsibilities can lead to neglecting one's own physical, mental, and emotional well-being. If left unaddressed by the caretaker, this stress can easily become burnout. 

2. Burnout

Caregiver burnout is the result of prolonged stress from caring for another person. Burnout can hinder a caretaker's sense of purpose and make them feel under-appreciated and overworked.

When a person feels depleted and drained from long periods of high stress, their motivation to provide great care can quickly diminish. They are less likely to take proper care of themselves and their mental health. If not addressed, burnout can lead to something called compassion fatigue.

3. Compassion Fatigue

Compassion fatigue is more severe than caregiver burnout. When a person experiences prolonged periods of strain and exposure to trauma, this can lead to fatigue harmful enough to change a person's worldviews. 

When comparing caregiver burnout versus compassion fatigue, the most notable difference is the lack of empathy for the people who receive the care. When a caretaker stays burned out for long periods, this can result in a state of tension and despair. 

Being exposed to another's traumas and stress while experiencing burnout can lead to a complete lack of compassion for those who need their assistance and support. It can have very harmful effects on the people enduring it, including demoralization and disconnectedness.

Long-term care facilities should ask themselves what are some of the symptoms of caregiver burnout to help staff members avoid reaching compassion fatigue at all costs. 

What Are the Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout?

It is important to understand the warning signs of caregiver burnout to prevent staff members from experiencing prolonged periods of physical and emotional exhaustion. This allows patients and employees to have the best caregiving experience possible. 

The following are common symptoms of caregiver burnout:

  • Lack of energy: Feeling overwhelmingly rundown may indicate burnout and a need for more rest. 
  • Depression: Many caregivers experience depression symptoms when faced with long periods of stress. 
  • Increased anxiety: Dedicating time to people with serious health conditions can incite a sense of worry and anxiety about the future.
  • Overwhelming stress: A person may feel totally overcome by the level of stress they experience as a caretaker.  
  • A feeling of incompetence: Qualified caregivers can feel a sense that they cannot succeed or do their job effectively due to burnout. 
  • Fatigue: An overwhelming sense of exhaustion and tiredness is one of the most common caregiver stress symptoms. 
  • Sleep problems: Despite feeling exhausted, many people who experience long periods of stress can have problems falling and staying asleep.
  • Weight gain or loss: Stress and exhaustion can lead to changes in diet and eating habits that cause unintended changes in body weight.
  • Withdrawal from daily activities: Despite previously enjoying daily activities, someone enduring burnout may feel disinterested as a result of strain from caregiving responsibilities.
  • Neglecting personal needs: Many extremely stressed people stop participating in self-care and may even fail to stay up to date with medical checkups, screenings, and vaccines.
  • Mood swings: It is common for people feeling burnout to experience major shifts in mood, especially quick changes to negative emotions like anger and frustration.
  • Difficulty coping: Working closely with patients who have endured traumatic health issues can be emotionally taxing and lead to challenges coping with feelings of sadness and stress.
  • Absenteeism: When people endure caregiver burnout, they may take more time off work or repeatedly show up late to their shifts.
  • Self-medication: In addition to trouble coping with emotions, many people with burnout attempt to numb their feelings by self-medicating, which can be dangerous, especially if it involves increased alcohol and drug use.
  • Persistent headaches: When dealing with caregiver burnout, many people experience unrelenting headaches and sometimes neck or upper back pain.
  • Stomach aches: Along with headaches, some caretakers have problems with their stomachs as a result of burnout. 
  • Mental fogginess: For people who feel overworked, it can be challenging to focus and think clearly and make rational decisions. 
  • Feeling hopeless: Many caretakers experience a sense of hopelessness because their contributions do not necessarily help improve their patients' health.
  • Lowered immunity: Caregiver burnout can lead to decreased immunity and increased health concerns.

The Impacts of Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver burnout affects more than just the person experiencing it. When staff members feel depleted and overworked, both the patients receiving care and the health facility suffer as well. 

Patients relying on caregivers can feel as though they are a burden when staff members suffer from burnout. They also experience a decline in the quality of care they receive when their caretaker is experiencing long-term periods of stress and exhaustion. 

Assisted living facilities can experience problems with staff turnover and absenteeism due to employee burnout. Beyond the mental and physical health concerns of caretakers, burnout impacts nearly everyone who comes into contact with the suffering person. 

Tips to Prevent Caregiver Burnout

If your facility management is wondering what to do about caregiver burnout, consider the following tips:

  • Manage stress: Stress is the leading cause of caregiver burnout. Employers should encourage healthy stress management techniques like meditation and yoga to prevent exhaustion and overwhelm.  
  • Talk to someone: Whether it is a loved one, therapist, or another caregiver, having someone to talk to is crucial for remaining level-headed and avoiding strain.
  • Focus on what you can control: By concentrating on what they can control, caretakers can reduce stress and react carefully to external circumstances.
  • Prioritize work-life balance: Caregiving is emotionally taxing, and to effectively provide quality care over a long period, it is important to invest in activities and hobbies enjoyable outside of work.

How to Recover From Caregiver Burnout

Even if your facility's staff is already experiencing exhaustion or excessive stress, there is hope for caregiver burnout recovery. Encourage your employees to complete the following steps to help address and resolve burnout at your assisted living or long-term care facility:

1. Ask for Help

Urge staff members to ask for help when they need it. Whether it is a daily task they could use some extra assistance with or need a coworker to help with specific ongoing duties, creating a safe space for them to ask for help is necessary for recovering from caregiver burnout.

2. Identify the Underlying Problem

For caregivers, many factors can contribute to high stress. To effectively combat and recover from burnout, identify the underlying problem negatively impacting the caregiver. Whether it is the emotionally taxing part of caring for another person or tiredness from long hours, finding the root of the problem is the only way to fully recover from burnout and reduce stress.

3. Get Support

When caregivers are feeling overworked, they must get the support they need. Staff members should have access to support groups and resources when they experience the negative side of caretaking. Facilities should encourage employees to talk to other caretakers to share valuable lessons and reduce feelings of stress and loneliness. 

4. Don't Overdo It

Allow employees to take regular breaks throughout their workday for collecting their thoughts and resetting their mindset as needed. If a caretaker is experiencing severe burnout, allow them to take family leave to preserve their mental and physical health. 

5. Socialize  

Caregivers can benefit from socialization outside of work. Encourage staff members to switch up their daily and weekly routines from time to time. Hosting fun events can allow your team to let loose and enjoy a break from their demanding schedule. 

6. Practice Self-Care 

An important part of recovering from caregiver burnout is prioritizing self-care. Workers should make an effort to stay up-to-date with their personal wellness. Urge employees to take care of their physical and mental health by doing things like going to therapy or picking up a new hobby.

7. Focus On Your Health 

Caregivers understand the importance of good health. Encourage everyone in your facility to focus on their health by doing the following:

  • Drinking enough water
  • Keeping a consistent sleep schedule
  • Exercising regularly
  • Making healthy dietary decisions

8. Implement Automation Technology

Antiquated technology lacks the power of automation that can make a caregiver's life much easier. 

When you automate administrative tasks with the support of workforce management software, caregivers can spend less time worrying about managerial work and more time focusing on the people they care for. With less on their plate, caretakers are less likely to experience burnout.

It's important for employees to feel supported and encouraged to strike a healthy work-life balance

The Importance of Creating a Balanced Workforce

For assisted living and long-term care facilities, it is important for management to create an environment where employees feel supported and encouraged to strike a healthy work-life balance. Employers can help support their team by providing effective training, flexible schedules, and sharing community resources.

A balanced workforce has the following advantages:

  • Enhanced productivity: When staff members have a better work-life balance, they can give their all during work hours, take the necessary time to recover, and ultimately decrease caregiver stress.
  • Improved job satisfaction: If your facility's caretakers have harmony in their lives, they will be more likely to enjoy the benefits of caring for others.
  • Better employee retention: Happy employees stay at their jobs longer and improve facility morale for everyone from coworkers to patients.

Try a Demo of SmartLinx Today

Caregiver stress and burnout are serious problems for assisted living and long-term care facilities. Beyond negatively impacting the caregivers themselves, facilities and the patients within them also suffer.

SmartLinx reduces caregiver stress and helps staff achieve more by managing time, scheduling, tracking payroll, creating reports, and ensuring compliance. We have designed our solutions and services to optimize and streamline healthcare operations for the best management for your team of caregivers.

Interested in learning how SmartLinx software can help streamline workforce management for your healthcare facility? Request a free demo today!

Try a Demo of SmartLinx today

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