Avoiding Caregiver Stress Burnout And Anxiety

Taking care of a loved one who has cancer can be very satisfying, but it can also be very stressful. Caregivers often put their own needs aside to tend to their loved one’s needs. This can cause caregiver stress, burnout or even anxiety and depression. These problems are common among primary caregivers.

Signs of Caregiver Stress, Burnout and Anxiety

Some of the most common signs of caregiver stress, burnout or even panic are:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Increased irritability
  • Insomnia (or oversleeping)
  • Listlessness
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
  • Weight fluctuations.

Caregivers are at an increased risk of developing long-term health problems due to neglecting their own emotional and physical needs. You can avoid this by balancing your own health and well-being with that of your loved one.

Tips for Avoiding Caregiver Stress

Burnout is the result of burying stress for too long. Caregivers report that these tips have helped them cope with caregiver stress:

  • Ask family members for caregiver support. You may not feel that you have time to take care of yourself. Free up some time by asking other family members to help with certain tasks or spend some time with the patient.
  • Hire professional caregiver support. You may not be physically capable of providing all of your loved one’s care. Professional home health services or respite care agencies send qualified nurses to your home to provide medical care for your loved one.
  • Join a caregiver support group. Caregiver support groups offer encouragement and an opportunity to cry, vent your feelings and exchange coping tips with people who are in the same position you are.
  • Maintain a positive attitude. Although caregiving can be very burdensome, it can also be very rewarding. Look for the positive aspects and the deeper spiritual meaning of giving care.
  • Maintain your friendships. When you’re under constant stress, you need the support of your friends more than ever. Schedule regular social outings. Even a short break can make you feel refreshed.
  • Take time to eat healthy food and get regular exercise. One of the outcomes of being cooped up with a person who’s gravely ill is lethargy. Make a point of going outdoors for a brisk walk and arrange for someone to cover your responsibilities while you shop for healthy foods.
  • Talk to your boss about your situation. Find out if your place of employment has any caregiver support programs or benefits. Perhaps you and your boss could negotiate certain details of your job, allowing you to work part-time or do some of your work from home.

Taking time for yourself isn’t selfish and you shouldn’t feel guilty. You must take care of your own needs in order to prevent caregiver stress, burnout or depression. Doing so will give you more energy to provide quality, long-term care to your loved one.


American Cancer Society. (2009). Caring for the patient with cancer at home: A guide for patients and families. Retrieved October 18, 2010, from http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/002818-pdf.pdf

International Myeloma Foundation. (2002). Now you are a caregiver. Retrieved October 18, 2010, from http://myeloma.org/IndexPage.action?tabId=1&menuId=0&indexPageId=39& parentLinkId=507&categoryId=0&gParentType=nugget&gParentId=12&parent IndexPageId=5&parentCategoryId=29

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2010). Caregiver depression: Prevention counts. Retrieved October 18, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/caregiver-depression/MY01264

National Cancer Institute. (2007). Caring for the caregiver. Retrieved October 18, 2010, from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/caring-for-the-caregiver