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Carer fatigue - what is it and how to prevent it


Providing care and support to an individual is a full-time job which is as emotionally demanding as it is physically demanding. When a caregiver is stretched to their limits, burnout can occur, leading to carer fatigue, otherwise known as caregiver burnout. In this blog, we’ll look at the signs and symptoms of carer fatigue and ways to prevent it happening.

What is carer fatigue?

Carer fatigue is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion experienced by anyone who is a caregiver. You might be providing care for friends or family members with health issues or you may be an employed caregiver. Anyone who continually supports others can experience caregiver burnout. It generally occurs when you try to do more than you’re able to and you don’t receive the support you need.

Carer fatigue is actually more common that you might realise. It is estimated that 60% of caregivers experience symptoms of burnout. Symptoms can vary from person to person so it’s really important to know what signs to look for.

How to recognise carer fatigue

Signs of caregiver burnout can vary from person to person but there are some common symptoms to look out for which we’ve set out below. You can also read about How to know when job stress is too much working in healthcare in our blog. 

Physical Exhaustion 

Caregivers often engage in physically demanding tasks, such as lifting, bathing, or assisting clients with mobility. Caregivers will also usually help with physical tasks around the home such as cleaning, cooking, shopping and washing. Over time, these activities can lead to physical exhaustion and strain.

Emotional Drain

Caring for someone who is suffering or in poor health can be emotionally draining. If the health of the person starts to deteriorate further, or someone passes away, caregivers may experience sadness, anxiety, and even depression.

Unable to concentrate 

The constant juggling of caregiving tasks, medical appointments, and family responsibilities can lead to mental fatigue. This often results in difficulties with concentration and decision-making.

Social Isolation 

Many caregivers become socially isolated as they devote more time to caregiving and less to their own social lives. This isolation can contribute to feelings of loneliness and sadness.

Withdrawing from activities

When caregivers start to put the needs of their patients before their own, it can cause them to withdraw from the outside world. They stop doing the things they used to do for pleasure and could start to withdraw from friends, family and other loved ones.

Unexplained anger and irritability

A change in behaviour is a key sign that all is not well. An increase in stress can lead to  feelings of anger and irritability towards friends and loved ones. This could even spill out and manifest as negativity towards the patient in someone’s care.

Feeling hopeless

Being in a constant state of overwhelm can lead to feelings of despair and hopelessness. The role of caregiver that once felt rewarding and positive might now seem pointless and something of a burden.

How to prevent carer fatigue

Carer fatigue can set in at any stage so it’s important to recognise the symptoms and then put measures in place to help yourself. The following strategies can help alleviate caregiver burnout and you can discover more ways to manage caregiver stress in our blog. 

Talk to someone

It’s always important to share how you’re feeling rather than bottle things up. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, talk to someone, whether that’s another professional or your family and friends.

Take regular breaks

Your time is just as important as anyone else’s so schedule regular breaks into your  routine. Use these periods to recharge. Go for a walk, take a gym class, read a book or eat some nourishing food.

Practise self-care

When your priority is looking after someone else, it can be hard to think about your own  needs. But it’s just like the safety briefing on an aeroplane – you must put on your own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. By looking after yourself, you will be in a better position to care for others. 

Respect your boundaries

It’s important to set boundaries between your role as a caregiver and your personal time. Everyone is entitled to time off, whether you’re a live-in carer, a support worker or you’re supporting a family member. It’s not selfish to say no, it’s self-preservation!

Acknowledge your feelings

Having negative feelings is a normal human response and doesn’t mean you are a bad person or a bad caregiver. However, we can only change what we notice, so the first step is to accept that you might be suffering from carer fatigue. Once you do, you can start to make small changes to help you feel yourself again.

How to recover from caregiver burnout?

Every carer who suffers from carer fatigue will have a different experience based on how it affects them. There isn’t a set timeframe for recovery – it could take days, weeks or months – but the important thing is to start taking care of yourself sooner rather than later. 

If you do suffer from carer fatigue, remember that it is a normal response to feeling overwhelmed and happens to many people in a care or support role. You can read about the challenges faced by caregivers in our blog Is being a support worker hard? 

At Safehands Recruitment we have several resources on our website that cold help you to identify.

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