No matter how big or small a task, caregivers have an incredibly important role. From doling out medications to keeping those being cared for comfortable, caregivers have a direct impact on someone’s quality of life.

With such a big responsibility, it isn’t hard to understand that caregiving has a high rate of burnout. According to a study from the American Psychological Association, around 40.4 million Americans care for people aged 65+ unpaid, with 90% related to those they’re caring for. 

Caregiver burnout has many causes, including workload and lack of privacy, which can lead to feeling a lack of control and independence.

April McSpadden, a licensed professional counselor with Wellspring Renewal Center, believes one way to combat burnout is to self-reflect.

“Being a caregiver is a lot of stress; it’s a lot of extra. I don’t know many people who can say they’re just a caregiver. They’re also a parent, a worker. They’re so many things,” she said. “You have to be selfish as a caregiver because if you’re not, you’re not going to last.” 

When it comes to caregivers taking time for themselves, Courtney Ghormley, a geropsychologist in Little Rock, suggests and airline’s approach. 

“It’s like when you’re on the airplane and they start talking about the oxygen masks,” she said. “In an emergency, you have to put your oxygen mask on first before you put theirs on. You’ve got to maintain your own health and your mental health so that you are in the best place possible to provide care.”

Two Ways to Combat Caregiver Burnout

Ask for help:
This can come in a variety of ways, as help may look different for each caregiver. For caregivers who find relief in talking things out, finding a therapist or support group may be the most helpful option. 

“Feel your feelings and allow yourself to have all of them,” McSpadden said. Arkansas has a multitude of caregiver support groups, which can be found by contacting the Arkansas Area Agencies on Aging. 

Take time for yourself:
When caring for others, it can be hard to find time for yourself. If burnout is creeping in, find a way to take a break. This often goes hand-in-hand with asking for help. Asking another family member or trusted friend to fill in while you take a walk or even a weekend trip to reconnect with yourself is a great way to step away from oncoming burnout. The Arkansas Department of Human Services also has the Arkansas Lifespan Respite Coalition dedicated to finding the right caregiver for your loved one, should you need to take a step back.