Advice: Carer Burnout

Often we don’t even recognise the symptoms of burnout. Sometimes family carers become so stressed they lose perspective and do not realise they are no longer coping. Carer burnout is dangerous for you and for your family member.

Being aware of your own needs and wellbeing can help you recognise the signs of burnout.

If you have any of these burnout symptoms, talk to someone you trust. This may be your family or whanau … your GP … the practice nurse … friends … other health professionals … a carer support group … or someone from your church.

Ask yourself what kinds of help (big or small) would make a difference. Often a thoughtful review of your needs, and problem areas, can help you identify your own solutions.

Being clear about how you feel and what might help will make it easier to cope. It will also make it easier for others to advise and assist you.

Review your needs regularly and let others know if you aren’t coping as well as before, or if your caring commitments have increased and you need more help. New support options can then be considered. If they think the needs of the person you support have increased, then you should request a new needs assessment to see if additional supports can be put in place. Supports may include home help, assistance with personal cares, respite, Carer Support etc. Find out more about respite and Carer Support here.

Use these links to find a list of needs assessors throughout New Zealand. There are different assessors depending on whether the person you support is:


Common Feelings


It’s normal for carers to feel sad and discouraged sometimes.

If you feel sad, include some pleasant activities in your daily schedule. It can lift your spirits to listen to favourite music, spend a few moments enjoying the garden, or to talk on the phone with a supportive friend.

If you feel discouraged, take one day at a time. Try to stay flexible and accept the things you can’t change.

If you feel afraid, talk to someone about the worst thing that could happen, and plan what you would do. Planning for the future will help reduce your fears about the ‘what ifs’.

Download our helpful Emergency Care Plan which is designed for carers who provide ongoing care and support. If for any reason you become unwell, or unable to continue caring, a completed Emergency Care Plan will ensure uninterrupted care for the person you support.

If you feel angry, take a break and leave the situation if possible. A quick walk, or counting to 10 in the sunshine, can help defuse angry feelings. If you can’t leave, stop and take a few deep, deliberate breaths. It will help!

If you feel guilty, give yourself credit for what you do well. Be realistic about what’s possible and what isn’t. Focus on one thing you want to do better and be specific. “If only I could make her eat” isn’t as helpful as “I will slow down and make meal times more pleasant for us both.”

Always think of ways you can support yourself. Treat yourself when you’re feeling low, and accept help and support from others. Consider your own needs as carefully as you do those of others.

Recognise the Symptoms

Symptoms of burnout can include:


  • Disrupted sleep patterns.
  • Altered eating patterns.
  • Increased sugar consumption or use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Increased smoking or a strong desire to start again. Frequent headaches or the sudden onset of back pain.
  • Increased use of over-the-counter pain remedies or prescribed drugs.
  • Irritability.
  • High levels of fear or anxiety.
  • Impatience.
  • The inability to handle a problem or emergency.
  • Overreacting to commonplace accidents.
  • Overreacting to criticism.
  • Overreacting with anger toward a spouse, child, or the person you support.
  • Alienation.
  • Feeling emotional withdrawal.
  • Feeling trapped.
  • Thinking of disappearing or running away.
  • Not being able to laugh or feel joy.
  • Withdrawing from activities and the lives of others.
  • Feeling hopeless most of the time.
  • Loss of compassion.
  • Resenting your older family member and/or the situation.
  • Neglecting or mistreating your family member (physically, with words, or by not providing the support they need).
  • Often feeling totally alone even though friends and family are present.

Be kind to yourself

You may want to take some time out and listen to Anna Filliol as she demonstrates her Stretch, Focus and Relax wellbeing exercises.

Or listen to her wonderful Five Minute Guided Meditations.

Or check out the Bite Sized Breaks for Carer Wellbeing that take between 1 and 5 minutes to enjoy.

We can help! We can provide information, refer you to many different types of support … or just listen. Our phone number is 0800 777 797.


© Family Care NZ