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Easing caregiver burden: Your guide to resources, support and more


Caregiving is rewarding but can be stressful at times. For some, it can be a 24/7 job, where carers assist with everything from activities of daily living to shopping, laundry, medication management, and financial management. Over time, feelings of being overwhelmed, financial and work strain, and an overall lack of support can develop - contributing to caregiver burden.


What is caregiver burden?

Caregiver burden refers to the physical, emotional, social and financial strain experienced by individuals who provide care for a person who is chronically ill, disabled, elderly, or has special needs. It is the cumulative effect of the demands, responsibilities, and challenges associated with caregiving. The phenomenon was initially studied in family members caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.


What are the signs of caregiver burden?

Caregiver burden can take many forms. For instance, carers may make mistakes when giving medicines, or may turn to unhealthy behaviours like smoking or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol to cope.

Other signs and symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Withdrawal from social activities and isolation from friends, family, and support networks
  • Expression of negative emotions, such as hopelessness, depression or feelings of alienation
  • Problems sleeping, such as trouble falling asleep or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite, such as eating too much or too little
  • Changes in behaviour, such as irritability, increased anger and resentment.


How does it affect a caregiver's health?

Long-term stress can lead to serious health problems. It can manifest in many ways, such as a weakened immune system, weight gain, depression and anxiety, and problems with short-term memory. This can also put you at a higher risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or arthritis.


What can we do to prevent or relieve caregiver burden?

Taking steps to relieve the burden can help prevent health problems from occurring in the first place. Someone who is completely exhausted simply cannot provide the same quality of care as someone who is mentally and physically healthy.

Here are some tips to help a carer to prevent or manage caregiver burden:

  • Find caregiving resources in your community. Respite services including day, overnight, and flexible respite give carers an important break from the caring role to ensure your health and quality of life is maintained.
  • Remember to take time for yourself. Stay in touch with family and friends, and do things you enjoy with your loved ones.
  • Take care of your health. Find time to be physically active, eat nutritious meals, and get enough sleep. Meditation and mindfulness are great ways to relax in your downtime.
  • Join a support group for caregivers. A caregiver support group can give you the opportunity to share stories, pick up caregiving tips, and get support from others who face the same challenges so you know you are not alone.
  • Ask for and accept help. For instance, if one of your friends is willing to help, have them sit with the person you care for while you do an errand. Someone else might pick up groceries for you. Home Care services can also be used to reduce your duties and give you more time to focus on your own health and well-being.


Being a carer is a demanding job, however, taking care of yourself helps you take better care of your loved one and enjoy the rewards of caregiving!