Dealing With Elder Care Burnout

What can I do when the task of caring for my aging parent leaves me feeling tired, discouraged, confused, and torn in several different directions all the time? I guess I didn't realize it at first, but this is an exhausting job! I'm already burned out! How can I survive without losing my mind?

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Somehow or other you need to find ways to give proper attention to your own needs. As a care-giver it’s critical that you take good care of yourself – even while you’re taking care of your aging loved one. Finding that balance can be a challenge, but now is the time to establish some healthy goals and habits. If you’re already nearing the point of burnout, it’s time to alter course. Here are a few survival steps that will help you make the necessary changes.

  1. Don’t go it alone. The task of caring for an aging loved one can have an isolating effect on the caregiver. Don’t allow yourself to be cut off from friends, neighbors or siblings who understand what you’re facing. Look for support from people who care about you, who love and encourage you, and who model Christian charity in their own lives. Maintain and nurture good friendships. Admit that there are limits to what one person can do and then seek some outside help.
  2. Ask for what you need. Don’t be shy about requesting and accepting help from other people. You’re going to need it. As a matter of fact, you may have to get aggressive about digging for the help you need. Whatever it takes, be persistent and don’t give up. One contact will lead to another. If you network the resources, you will uncover more and more organizations, government agencies and private individuals who are on your side, who understand, and who will go to bat for you.
  3. Expect help from your family. Your family can be an important source of emotional support, but learn what is reasonable to expect. Keep communication lines wide open. Hold family meetings to talk about the job ahead of you. Ask your family to hold you accountable to get enough sleep, eat healthfully, and take time for exercise. Tell them how much you appreciate their help. If you have children, find creative ways to involve them and your aging parent in one another’s lives. Promote unity between the generations and reinforce the feeling of family, legacy and heritage in your household.
  4. Join a support group. Support groups can help you a) set appropriate limits in how you care for your elderly loved one, b) consider the impact of taking on continuing care-giving responsibilities, and c) make difficult decisions regarding the care of your aging parent. For information about support groups in your area see the website of Caregiver Action Network (CAN),a national, non-profit organization for caregivers. You might also want to contact your local Area Agency on Aging to identify other support services and programs close to home.
  5. Identify your strengths. Instead of focusing on those aspects of the task that you find daunting or overwhelming, build on your natural strengths and abilities so as to meet the challenge of care-giving in the most effective way. For example, if you’re healthy and fit but not particularly good at paperwork, concentrate on meeting your elder’s physical needs and delegate the administration of the estate to a financially astute sibling or friend.
  6. Get respite. Never feel guilty about getting away for a break – perhaps an evening at home without interruption or a drive to a different environment. Taking some time off for yourself is not a sign of weakness and will help you more than you may realize. To do this, you may need to hire a companion to watch your elder or ask a sibling or relative to help out while you are gone. You might also enroll your loved one in an adult day-care program. Call the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging for referrals or information to help you.
  7. Think realistically. Let go of false expectations and learn to think realistically and biblically. Don’t expect circumstances in your life or in that of your aging loved one to stay the same as they were in the past. Change is inevitable, but it is also an opportunity to love and serve God in new ways.
  8. Energize yourself. Find out what makes you relish life and do those things regularly and consistently. Plug into resources that stimulate and regenerate your soul and body. Do you enjoy reading on the porch? Rearranging the living room furniture? A game of golf? Going to a symphony? As a caregiver, you must budget and plan for some of these activities.
  9. Reaffirm your faith and calling. God has appointed a time and place for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1). If you believe He has given you the assignment of caring for your aging parent, then reassert your confidence in His calling when discouragement, self-pity and fatigue tempt you to give up. The Lord will help you shoulder the load; remember the words of Philippians 1:6: “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

If you need further help working through these ideas and applying them to your situation, feel free to call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department.

Related Video

Balancing Service and Sacrifice With Time for Self: Gary Thomas discusses the elements of a balanced life, especially the need for self-care.

If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Caring for Your Aging Loved Ones

Complete Guide to Caring for Aging Loved Ones

The Overwhelmed Woman’s Guide to Caring for Aging Parents



National Association of Area Agencies on Aging

Caregiver Action Network


Caring for Ill or Aging Parents

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.

If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.