Understanding Carer Fatigue

Published: 22/05/2019

Caring for a loved one is a rewarding but often stressful job, so it's no surprise that carer fatigue is something many people experience. Here's our Bluebird Care Wandsworth guide to understanding this often under-reported issue.

Caring for someone is one of the most rewarding things you can do, but it can also be stressful. The physical demands and emotional strain of looking after another person can sometimes result in what’s known as carer fatigue or burnout.

According to the Carers Trust, 1 in 7 people in the UK is an unpaid carer. While many people bravely soldier on in the face of carer fatigue, it’s something that you shouldn’t have to deal with alone. Here’s how to spot the signs of burnout and some advice on where to turn if you need support.

What are the symptoms of carer fatigue? 

As the condition is inter-linked with feelings of anxiety and depression, many of the symptoms are similar. They can include:
  • Feeling tired and lethargic, even after sleeping
  • Being more irritable, impatient and short-tempered than usual
  • Having difficulty switching off and relaxing
  • Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Feeling anxious, tearful, hopeless or depressed
  • Neglecting yourself, e.g. your personal care and emotional needs
  • Over-eating or not eating enough
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Succumbing to illnesses more often than usual
  • Drinking more alcohol to cope with feelings of stress
  • Feeling that your caring role has taken over your life or that it has become a chore
  • Taking your frustrations out on the person you care for
If you’re experiencing these symptoms and feeling generally overwhelmed by your role as a carer, it’s time to get the support you need.

Coping with carer burnout

Everyone will have different coping strategies, but some useful practical steps to take are:
  1. Talk about it with friends and family – you might be putting on such a good show of coping that they don’t realise you’re struggling. Letting others know how you’re feeling opens the door for them to step in and take on some of the responsibility.
  2. Tell your GP and other health professionals you have contact with – they may be able to put you in touch with organisations that can help or give you health advice and treatment for the symptoms you’re experiencing. The Carers trust even have a handy carer fatigue symptom card you can fill out before seeing your GP that will help explain what you’re going through.
  3. Get some respite care – organising respite care with family, a local homecare company, social services or a charity could help you take a much-needed break, safe in the knowledge that your loved one is being cared for by professionals.
  4. Be prepared to loosen control and accept help - when you’re used to handling everything yourself, it can be hard to let others in and relinquish control, but it’s essential if you want to help yourself. Remember, the person you care for will still love and need you even if you don’t do every single thing for them.
  5. Don’t forget about you – it can seem like an impossible task when you’re busy and feeling low but even 5 minutes spent on looking after yourself can make a difference. It could be something as simple as sitting down in a quiet spot to gather your thoughts or taking a relaxing bath. Even the smallest things can start to boost your mood and self-esteem.

Getting the right advice and support 

The Carers Trust is an invaluable resource for anyone who is looking after a loved one, with a wealth of professional advice on the financial, practical and emotional issues surrounding being a carer. If you feel like no-one else really understands what you’re going through, you can also chat to other carers on the Carers UK online forum.

Here at Bluebird Care Wandsworth, we’re in awe of people across the UK who care for loved ones. They’re the unsung heroes of the social care system. That’s why we’re committed to providing top quality respite care across the south London area to give carers the well-deserved break they need.

If you’d like to know more about how we can help you take some time out, or to ask about any of our other homecare services, just get in touch with our team online or give us a call on  020 8877 4950.