Why am I Getting Burnt Out Taking Care of My Parents?


As children, we wish to have our parents by our side for all of our lives. They're supposed to protect, support, and mentor us even when we're full adults. However, parenthood isn't evergreen. At some point, the tables start to turn, and parents look for emotional, moral, and financial assistance in their offspring.

And so, the cycle reverses. As your mom and dad near the last stages of life, they gradually rely on you more and. Now you feel it’s your time to give back to your parents in return for all they did for.   

However, not every child is fully prepared or fully aware of the strict, vigilant lifestyle expected of a caregiver. During the prime of your life, nobody has a 'taking care of my parents' point on their list of priorities. The full-time role of a caregiver is perhaps the last thing on your mind, and something that gradually becomes a larger part of our lives.  

Full time caregiving is often a strenuous and mentally draining job that is never complete. 

Changing diapers, paying medical bills, tolerating tantrums, feeding, and following appointment schedules seem like an endless rut. Often times, you end up in a situation called caregiver burnout. This refers to the intense frustration and hopelessness that overcomes you when you're emotionally and mentally drained after years of 24/7/365 vigilance.

You see, caregiving continues as long as your parents live. When you tell yourself that 'taking care of my parents won't be that hard', you're underestimating what the future holds. Going headfirst into this journey isn't bad but expecting yourself to always give your 100% is unlikely in the long run. No matter how optimistic you start out, when you’ve reached your limit, that's caregiver burnout.

Juggling between career and taking care of your old parents may cause stress and burnout.
Juggling between career and taking care of your old parents may cause stress and burnout.

Causes of Caregiver Burnout

Blending Into the Role

Being a caregiver to your own parent takes its toll on your social personality. After a while, you may feel like you naturally have the same responsibility towards others as well. Since caregiving requires full time emotional, moral, physical, and mental work, it's easy for your brain to confuse your identity in other relationships.

Limited Control

Caregiving can be really frustrating and testing for some people. Having little control over your parent's finances, mobility, and health can make you feel helpless and question your purpose. 

Expecting too Much

As much as you dread it, some elders have conditions that constantly deteriorate. You can give them all the care in the world, but they won't be able to express that love and appreciation you feel you deserve. This absence of any change and experiencing the same routine day after day 

Unreasonable Demands

This one's linked to the previous factor of caregiver burnout. Being in charge of your old parents can seem pretty unfair at times. They'll blame you for stuff beyond your control. They'll expect you to take in all the exhaustion they're feeling from being cooped up in the house for months or years. Even more, they will be unreasonably harsh and mean even at the slightest mismanagement. And although your parents have tolerated their share of your childhood tantrums, it can be difficult for you to do the same.

Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout

Before finding out if you can 'continue taking care of my parents', make sure you're fit for carrying all the mental, emotional, financial, and physical baggage. 

Withdrawal From Other Matters of Life

Neglecting your spouse, kids, social circle, or profession is a sign you're headed towards a full-blown burnout. A person going through this phase will shut down all social activities and hobbies. They'll just spiral without a second thought. The feeling of doom can be terrible and could steadily get worse.

Feeling Irritant

Since caregivers tend to be so overworked and overwhelmed, they lose all control over their composure. They'll get irritated at harmless remarks, be unnecessarily bossy, or will just shut everybody out.

Loss of Interest

If you or anyone you know has an old or ailing parent, this one's quite common. The caregivers don't feel the pull towards any of those social activities they once so heartily enjoyed. Whether it's about a friend's day out or a long term hobby, turning down all opportunities indicates a severe loss of interest. 

Urge to Harm

As a caregiver, you may also find yourself or your parent a potential way of releasing your pent up anguish. You could emotionally or physically hurt yourself or your loved one and feel even worse later on.

Loss of a Healthy Lifestyle

Losing your appetite and altering your sleep patterns also means you're taking more stress than you can handle.

Physical and Mental Sickness or Exhaustion

Living a constantly stressful and rigid lifestyle can eventually lead to total burnout. You may feel sick and tired more often than usual. Moreover, your mental health and hygiene are also influenced by these circumstances and can cripple right under your nose.

How to Avoid or Recover From Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver burnout is curable. Here's what you can do to make caregiving relatively easier:

Pay Attention to Yourself

Do not neglect your own needs! As a caregiver, it's both your right and responsibility to ensure your own wellbeing. Look after your health, social and personal lives, education, and other priorities.

Talk to Someone You Trust

Not everybody has old parents. But there are always a few people who are more than willing to let you talk your heart out. Talk to your friend, family, partner, or any other person you can really trust. Even if you don't get practical advice, you'll still feel like the weight on your chest has lightened.

Share the Burden

If you have a family or a friend who can volunteer, ask for help in caregiving. Alternately, you can seek professional caregivers and allot them as much time as you can manage and afford in your daily routine. There is often a stigma or guilt associated with hiring help to care for your parents, but that hired help gives you the time you need to recover and focus on your own life if not for a couple days a week. 

Set Realistic Goals

Caregiving doesn't always give happier results. All you need to remind yourself is that you are doing your best, and there are some things you simply cannot control. The condition may not get better, but as a child, you're playing your part in your parent's life.