3 Dangerous Consequences of Home Care Provider Burn Out

August 17, 2015

Consequences of home care provider burnout.In a previous post, “5 Surprising Benefits In Home Caregivers Get from Their Work,”we shared the concrete benefits the home care provider enjoys. The Boston University study covered there found those who had been family caregivers at some point in their lives were often physically stronger and show more cognitive gains than those who never undertook this role.

That study, however, examined people whose caregiving days had ended. The caregiver had time to put the experience in perspective and derive meaning from it. Caregiver providers in the midst of their duties experience many challenges among the positives. The most common issue caregivers encounter is burnout and it’s critical they recognize that burnout can destabilize not only themselves, but the senior under care and the entire family as well.

It’s vital for the success of a care arrangement to be aware of the signs of potential burnout.  If you suspect you or someone you love is approaching full-on caregiver burnout, understand that, without a change, severe consequences could result. Those feeling stressed, depressed, sick and angry must take measures to learn how to cope and remain healthy.  It’s important to reach out for help and support. Other family members, organizations and even government entities will make all the difference.  As the caregiver, you must manage your own well-being to successfully manage the care of your loved one.  

Elder Abuse: 

Each year in the United States, police and Adult Protective Services receive 500,000 reports of elder abuse. Experts put the actual numbers of unreported verbal, emotional and financial abuse at many times more than that. The abusers are often those tasked with taking care of the senior. While no manner of abuse should be tolerated, this issue gets quite complex. Caregiver burnout is a primary cause of elder abuse.

Anyone who has been a caregiver for weeks, months or years knows the sharp anger that can arise after long days of both physical and mental exhaustion, stress and repetitive tasks. Particularly for those unprepared and untrained to manage a caregiving situation.  Without training, coping skills and getting support, even the most well-meaning family home care provider can find themselves on the brink of losing control. A determination to only be loving and caring in the morning can dissolve into sharp words and physical roughness by evening.

Debilitating Physical and Psychological Health Issues

Many families do not see or understand the toll caregiving is taking until the caretaker breaks down either physically or emotionally, particularly in situations where members are great distances apart.

The National Institutes of Health explains,

“unlike professional caregivers . . . [because] informal caregivers are often faced with multiple, [simultaneous] stressful events and extended, unrelenting stress, they may experience negative health effects, mediated in part by immune and autonomic dysregulation.”[i]

The caregiver that’s constantly “on duty” often loses time to coordinate for their own needs, such as time to enjoy their immediate family, exercise, socialize or even perform daily tasks such as shopping or maintaining the home. This can lead to feeling a loss of control and the need to always “catch up” on their own needs, resulting in more stress.

Health effects from burnout can include chronic pain such as headaches and backaches, increased virus infection resulting from lowered immune system. Lack of sleep, poor nutrition and general fatigue make anyone more susceptible to illness. Relentless caregiving has also proven to impact mental health in the forms of increased rates of depression, stress and even cognitive problems. American Psychological Society estimates put the rate of depression among regular family caregivers at between 40% and 70%. Half of these individuals meet the criteria for major depression.[ii] 

Caregiver burnout can also impact the physical and emotional health of the one being cared for as well. A professional senior care provider can pinpoint medical and other issues family members may not understand. Research by UC San Francisco revealed that seniors with trained providers are less likely to go to the emergency room or enter hospital care than those with untrained providers. Likewise, trained caregivers are also more likely to identify concerning changes in condition that require preventative measures or evaluation before escalating to more serious issues.  As much as family members want to help, most are not trained health care professionals.

Long-Term Economic Impact

Many families, particularly those in cultures with a tradition of taking care of elders, find the idea of hiring outside care unthinkable. Adult children must keep in mind, however, that in most cases family structures and circumstances have changed. It’s unrealistic and near impossible for one person to provide the care an extended family or village did in an earlier generation. Further, even though three-quarters of family caretakers are women, most in the United States now have full-time jobs with paychecks necessary for the well-being of the family. Dropping a job or reducing hours to part-time to care for a loved one can mean not only a reduction in income but also loss of career advancement, retirement and college savings. Hiring care from an outside agency and/or getting help from other family members helps to keep family routines, finances and roles more stable.

My Care Match Helps Families Find Caregiver Respite and Relief

My Care Match understands that even superheroes can use a little help. Everyone needs time to focus on immediate family, self, friends and personal enrichment. Respite care can help provide all of that. More, respite care has even been proven to:

  • Significantly improve caregiver attitude toward the cared for individual
  • Reduce the risk of elder abuse and neglect
  • Make caring for a senior loved one in their home or your home possible
  • Provide the senior with the stimulation of a new face and conversation
  • Give caregivers a chance to get involved in their communities and with caregiver support groups
  • Create a chance to reconnect with an elder loved one meaningfully
  • Avoid high costs of residential, long-term care  

When you complete your profile with MyCareMatch.com, explain the level and amount of care you’ve been providing.  Agencies and independent caregivers contact you to explain how they can help. You can also search for just the right match for your situation. Have a specific need or question?  Feel free to leave a brief message here.  We look forward to helping provide meaningful, life enriching care.


[i] Bevans, Margaret. “Caregiving Burden: Stress and Health Effects Among Family Caregivers of Adult Cancer Patients”   National Institutes of Health and reported in Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA). 25 January 2012

[ii]Family Caregiving.” www.apa.org.

About the Author

Doug Breuer is co-founder of MyCareMatch.com and has worked in senior care for the last 9 years for the State of Oregon. From investigating cases of elder abuse to managing the delivery of long term care to residents of Central Oregon, Doug has been involved in all aspects of senior care.

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