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UPMC Expert: Understanding Burnout and Respite Care

Caring for a loved one is truly a selfless act. When this person becomes a priority, their needs usually exceed your needs. On top of a full-time job and a family of your own, handling it all may become overwhelming. This is expected, typical, and human nature.

Respite care services provide temporary comfort, supervision, and attention for a loved one so that their caregiver can focus on themselves and other important responsibilities. Giving yourself grace and space for your own needs will not only help you but keep you in a better position to maintain high-quality care for whoever is your responsibility.
Facing Caregiver Burnout

Burnout, or the feeling of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion, can come from the stress of caretaking and the result of persistently spreading ourselves too thin. Signs of burnout may include:
– Withdrawal from activities or people you enjoy
– Difficulty with sleep or concentration
– Lack of energy or exhaustion
– Denial about the state of your loved one’s health
– Depression and anxiety
– Having a short fuse emotionally or physically
– Unhealthy coping behaviors

Continuously operating in “survival mode” easily pressures our bodies. They are equipped to handle stress, however, not a constant state of stress. The prolonged release of stress hormones can affect you with not only the symptoms above but also with long-term effects like weight gain or loss, hormonal imbalances, and an increased risk of serious conditions like heart disease or diabetes.
Respite Care Services

Respite cares services can be tailored to what fits best with you and your loved one. Some might be offered in your friends, community, or religious organizations. Relief may be offered in your loved one’s home or possibly bringing the person that is cared for to a more formal setting like a senior community or adult day care facility.

Common tasks that are often offered by respite care workers may include the assistance of everyday living (grooming, bathing, dressing, etc.), help with medications, meal preparation, companionship, and even some light housekeeping. This can help take some of these tasks off your plate while still knowing your loved one is receiving the care they need.
Tips for Self-Preservation

Burnout can be experienced on a mild, moderate, or severe scale. To help avoid burnout altogether, consider the following tips:
– Discuss your feelings with a friend, support group, or a counselor.
– Take care of yourself by eating healthily, exercising, and getting plenty of rest.
– Ask for help when you need it and accept it when it is offered.
– Learn more about your loved one’s condition.
– Try something new, like relaxation techniques or getting more familiar with organizations in your community that can help.

If symptoms are interfering with your life, reach out for help. Doing so is not a sign of weakness. Psychotherapy, peer support, and medication are the most common treatment options for anxiety, stress, and depression. Your primary care physician or a mental health professional can help you find the right combination of treatments unique to you. Also, explore respite care options and learn about the ways you and your loved one can receive additional help.
Bobbie Woolcock, MSN, is the senior director of operations for UPMC Senior Communities in North Central Pa. To learn more about UPMC Senior Communities, go to

UPMC Expert
Understanding Burnout and Respite Care
Bobbie Woolcock, MSN
UPMC Senior Communities