This is an incredibly important topic that all caregivers must be aware of. Burnout can be dangerous to you and your loved one who you care for. It can also be very damaging. Quite common amongst caregivers, burnout can result from the combination of effects from one’s emotional feelings of guilt, lack of recognition, helplessness, family discord and isolation and much more.

Mixed with the demands upon your own strength, your resources, time and energy it is easy to understand why so many caregivers experience this sense of utter depletion. Burnout affects your health, motivation, attitude and mood. It can flow over into your personal life as well, especially if you are not conscious as it happens to you.

Causes Of Burnout:

The need to work hard Perfectionism and high expectation of yourself and others
Commitment, dedication Not being able to delegate responsibility to others
The need to prove yourself Pushing yourself past your limitations
The need for approval from others Not reaching out for support and help.
Inability to say no Not being able to receive
Self-sacrifice Not having a social life, not living your own life fully

Symptoms Of Burnout:

Lack of motivation Complaining about the caregiving role
Lack of efficiency Depression, anxiety and emotional exhaustion
Insomnia Sense of being overwhelmed or burdened
Headaches Loss of self-confidence, self-esteem
Backaches Inability to concentrate and slowed thought
Lethargy Feelings of emptiness and sadness
Fatigue Gastrointestinal symptoms
Anger Frustration and easily aroused irritation
Pessimism Cardiovascular problems
Resentment Skin conditions

Prevention Against Burnout

>Make a conscious decision to take care of your own personal needs and your health first while you are caring for another person. The most important phrase to remember at this time is After me, you come first. If you are not strong from within, healthy and balanced physically emotionally, mentally and spiritually then how can you be there fully present to care for another?

Make a conscious decision at the onset of the caregiving process to involve the one you caregive in making choices, decisions, etc., encouraging them to take active participation in the healing, treatment or process until their transition from this plane.

I cannot express the importance of supporting the one you care for to take an active part in maintaining the quality of their life even if they are terminal. Provided they are of sound mind and have their faculties, a caregiver should support their loved one to fully participate in all the decisions regarding the process they are experiencing with empowerment, strength, responsibility and much more…….Encouraging the cared one to remain independent and in charge of the life is so very important in times like this. Where ever possible, the caregiver should try to work with the requests of their loved one in all situations, acting as a support to follow through on their decisions.

Caregivers must seek out techniques which relax themselves during their undertaking as caregiver. This means eating well, getting fresh air, learning deep breathing techniques, perhaps yoga or tai chi, exercising, walking, napping and a variety of other ways. The most important issue is to reach some deep inner peace from within

When caring for someone who is terminal and undergoing a slow deterioration process that we watch daily as caregivers, the process can be devastating. It is important to look at areas in our own personal lives where we are perhaps dying a little every day because we are not living our own lives to the fullest. We put off things until tomorrow. Now is the only moment we have. As caregivers we begin to see how short and truly precious life is. Make sure you maintain your own personal life while caring for another. You must make time for yourselves. Bring in other family members, friends or volunteers from organizations to assist you when needed.

Find support groups on and off-line for your loved one and yourself. Sharing with others in similar processes helps you to keep a proper perspective on the process. Reach out and get the support you need. No one can undergo this alone. We all need support!

Never diminish your accomplishments- large or small. When you give with clear intent and focus from your heart, wonderful healings manifest. Be in gratitude for the mini miracles takiing place. They are all a part of a bigger picture that we may not be able to comprehend at the time.

See if you can write down all the mixed feelings you go through. The highs, the lows, the old patterns, the feelings of inadequacy, the frustrations, etc. Writing, allows you to clear yourself to move on without carrying all the clutter or baggage with you. It frees you up to be fully present in the moment.

Learn to be able to laugh at yourself, the situations you are in with your loved one and life. Humor is such an important healing ingredient especially when you are feeling helpless and hopeless.

Be aware of the lessons that you are learning from the process itself, from your loved one that you are caring for and from others who come into your life.

Copyrighted by Gail R. Mitchell 12/31/99


  • Ms. Mitchell began her full-time caregiving experience in the early eighties when her husband was diagnosed with cancer. Later on she became the primary caregiver for her father, along with her mother who had become critically ill from burnout prior to her dad’s passing. In recent years, she cared for several friends with AIDS while continuing to care for her mother and actively providing support, information, referrals and resources for caregivers.

    Gail's leadership on the Internet and her success with Empowering Caregivers led her to found National Organization For Empowering Caregivers (NOFEC) INC in 2001.

    Prior to founding NOFEC, she created the iVillageHealth Chat: Empowering Caregivers, which she hosted for over 5 years. Within a month of hosting she created Empowering Caregivers: in 1999 as a resource for caregivers around the globe. Over three million visitors have frequented the website.

    She has presented at national and international care-related conferences and programs and has been a keynote speaker for many programs as well.

    Ms Mitchell has assisted thousands of caregivers online and offline in ways to empower themselves in their roles in caring for loved ones.

    For a list of clients and/or her resume, please contact

    Gail's articles have been published in many venues nationally and in Canada. Presently, she is a member of American Society on Aging and National Quality Caregivers Coalition.

    Gail has discovered that there is life after caregiving: She has become a successful ceramic artist and installation artist. She created Crystal Illumination Art to bring the transformative quality of illumination, light and color to the human experience and celebrate its ability to inspire, heal and nourish our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being.