Too exhausted to care?

It is stressful for adult children to provide comprehensive daily care to their elderly parents when one or both of their parents are not as independent anymore. It’s usually the daughter caring for her elderly mother. The family caregiver can become mentally and physically exhausted, irritable and resentful.

I was reading a very informative article about caregiver burnout last week and noted that all of the signs and tips around caregiver burnout were the same as what someone may experience with any type of burnout. Do you want to check and see if you qualify?

Are you:

Waking up tired and looking forward to going back to bed?

Having trouble concentrating or staying focused?

Feeling helpless or more emotional than you expected?

Not seeing friends that you used to see regularly?


Reacting with anger much too easily? These can be quick indicators that you are fatiguing both mentally and physically and that you could be at the end of your rope.

So what can you do about it? I’ve summarized a few tips for you that, if implemented, will guarantee you relief.

Reach out and accept support – In the caregiving example, support would come in the form of a compassionate caregiver who would provide much needed help in the home where the primary benefits are avoiding physical and mental burnout, easing of the associated guilt of not being able to do everything, and spending actual quality family time together (instead of the stressful tasks). You can ask family members or good friends for more general help. That’s when you know who your good friends are. Alternately, connect with local organizations/support groups who specialize in providing help.

Take care of yourself – how many times have you read that a full sleep, exercise, good nutrition, and relaxation are the keys to feeling great? That’s because it works! Too many of us read this info and then forget about it five minutes later because we’re too busy to act on it. Stop!

Prioritize! You decide what’s more important – getting your life back or getting that 45 minutes of non-important work done that would have waited until tomorrow.

Have realistic expectations – be realistic about what you expect of yourself. You don’t always have to be Superman or Superwoman. In a family caregiving sense, this is where a lot of people get into trouble.

An elderly parent may (unknowingly) lay on the guilt with comments about how the adult child should be providing the care, without considering the exhaustion it may be bringing on. You have to be confident enough to say when enough is enough.

‘Seek first to understand’ – this is a phrase from Steven Covey’s great book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. We must take initiative and seek to understand the thought process and actions of others in order to relate to why they do things that aggravate us. This greatly helps reducing feelings of tension and resentment and importantly, can lead to discussion about how to remove the aggravators. This kind of understand first thinking is also contagious in a good way. Try it when you are talking to someone and see how powerful it is. Use a phrase like, "Help me understand. Please tell me more about why you (insert aggravator)" and see where it goes.

Any one of these tips on their own can provide much relief, but used together in combination they become more powerful.

Now quickly scan them again while thinking about how you could apply them to your current situation and you will probably come up with some great ideas. Also, read the tips just before bed tonight and allow the "sleep committee" to work on the problem while you sleep. Some of the best solutions come to you first thing in the morning.

It may be better to burn out than to fade away, but it’s even better to avoid burning out or fading away!

Chris Wilkinson is the owner/GM for Nurse Next Door Home Care Services for Cowichan and central Vancouver Island. For questions or a free inhome caring consult call 250-748-4357, or email