6 tips to avoid caregiver burnout

An award-winning nurse shares advice on preventing caregiver stress and burnout.

An image of Joshua Breault, Director of Wellness at Amica Peel Village

Joshua Breault, a registered practical nurse and Director of Wellness at Amica Peel Village, loves caring for seniors and hearing all about their life lessons. In fact, his compassion and commitment helped win him the Amica Hero of the Year award in 2021. Working with Amica residents and their families has also given him keen insight into some of the challenges that loved ones and family members encounter, such as fatigue and caregiver stress. Did you know that one in three Canadian caregivers experience depression, anger or distress, for instance? Learn about the signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout and use Breault’s tips for caregivers of aging parents or spouses.

“Never be afraid to ask for help, because there are so many great support options,” says Breault. “Caregivers often want to do everything for their loved ones; however this can lead to burnout very quickly.”

Tip 1: Understand what caregiver burnout is

If you’re providing unpaid physical and emotional support to someone — from cleaning to cooking to taking them to doctor’s appointments — that’s caregiving. Over time, caregivers can reach a state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion known as caregiver burnout. Read more about symptoms such as sleep changes, irritability or hopelessness and withdrawing from family and friends in our article, “How to prevent caregiver burnout.

Tip 2: Research your loved one’s condition

“If your spouse or senior parent has dementia, for example, learn as much as you can about the type of dementia that they have,” says Breault. “You’ll understand how physical changes in the brain affect how they respond, so you can provide better assistance and not take challenging behaviours personally.” (Get more dementia insights in our Memory Care Guide.)

Tip 3: Seek out support

Talking with other caregivers offers an opportunity to vent, recharge and find out about local resources. Google “caregiver support” plus your location to find out about free groups organized by local, public health and health organizations. You may find it particularly helpful to find a caregiver support group focused on your loved one’s health condition, such as those found at Parkinson Canada, The Alzheimer’s Society and Heart & Stroke Canada.

Tip 4: Take a moment for mindfulness

Meditation, mindfulness exercises, yoga, walking and other stress busting activities can help offset some of the mental and physical health impacts of caregiving. Read Stress relief: 3 fast mindfulness exercises for senior caregivers for easy relaxation techniques that you can do at home or anywhere.

Tip 5: Know when more help is required

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and your aging spouse or parent’s needs are increasing, the safest option may be to seek senior care. (See our Senior Care Guide to find out about different options, including private-pay retirement residences with Assisted Living and government-subsidized long-term care homes.)

“A sign that an elderly parent needs more care is if they are having increased falls or mobility concerns,” says Breault. “Also, if a normally well-groomed individual is no longer changing their clothes frequently or taking care of themselves, they may need more assistance.” 

Tip 6: Understand that personalized care can change seniors’ lives

It’s normal to want to do it all for our aging loved ones, but sometimes they need more services and professional help than they can get at home.

“Before he arrived at Amica, one of our residents was falling at home and becoming increasingly isolated and depressed,” says Breault. “After the move, he began taking Amica fitness classes, building his strength and meeting other residents. He’s really adapted well.”

Family members appreciate the support and information sessions that Amica offers, the thoughtfully designed safety and accessibility features of Amica residences, as well as Amica’s personalized approach to senior care.

“Amica goes the extra mile to offer customized and professional care through the Personalized Wellness Plan,” says Breault. “It’s created prior to move in, consistently updated with information about the resident’s interests, life and care preferences, and shared with the Wellness, Culinary and Life Enrichment teams so that we can all tailor our services to the resident.”

There’s great peace of mind in knowing that you’re supporting both yourself and your parent or spouse with compassion, whether its through a short Amica respite stay or a permanent move to senior living.

“You’re not alone, so don’t feel bad for reaching out for help,” says Breault. “You’re actually preventing burnout for yourself and enabling more care for your loved one.”

Book a virtual or in-person tour to find out what it’s like to enjoy living on your own terms in an elegant Amica residence with outstanding dining, amenities, activities, senior care and safety measures.