Why Perfectionism Causes Caregiver Burnout

If you’re a caregiver and a perfectionist, you may be facing an uphill battle. Caregiving is a demanding job and it’s critical to accept that not everything will be perfect. As a caregiver, there are many things you cannot control and at the end of the day the most important thing to do is to let go of chasing perfection and simply aim to do your best. This piece will review the negative effects perfectionism has on caregiving.

The Right Mindset to Prevent Caregiver Burnout

Throughout our entire lives, people, maybe even the person you’re caring for, have told us that “nobody’s perfect.” That phrase applies to caregiving more than pretty much any other situation you’ll face throughout the course of your life. This is due to the nature of many of the illnesses you’re dealing with on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

It’s important to accept that there are many facets associated with caregiving that you can’t control and many that you cannot change. Learn from your mistakes, but also forgive yourself. If you ever practiced poor judgement, whether it was before your loved one got sick or while providing care, you need to let it go. Caregivers are under far more stress than the average person, and if you don’t acknowledge that, you’re far more likely to succumb to the causes of caregiver burnout.

Also, caregiver perfectionists tend to think nothing they do is good enough unless it’s perfect. If you’re that type of person, you need to lower your self-standards from “perfect” to “good enough,” because being good at caregiving is all anyone could possibly ask for. Caregivers who set too high of standards for themselves can suffer from low self-esteem, so when you do a good job, take time to acknowledge the difference you’re making and figuratively pat yourself on the back. In caregiving, victories can be few and far between, a fact that has nothing to do with the quality of the care. Even writing down your accomplishments as a caregiver is a healthy tactic. Don’t be afraid to accept a compliment every once in awhile!

Signs Your Perfectionism may be Leading to Caregiver Burnout

Perfectionists are more likely to be stressed, depressed, and are less probable to take breaks or pay attention to their physical health. Those are symptoms that are already associated with caregiver burnout, which is why perfectionism puts caregivers at risk.

Feeling constant fear of failure, constantly tinkering even after a task has been completed and comparing yourself to other caregivers are more signs of unhealthy behaviors exhibited by perfectionists.

Procrastination is another indicator that your attempt at being completely flawless is leading to caregiver burnout. Planning is extremely important when caregiving, but perfectionists tend to over prepare. This idealism can cause unnecessary delays in providing care or even preventing them from ever completing the task at hand.

Negative Effects of Perfectionism on Caregiving

Perfectionists inherently have a higher risk of depression and suicide so considering the additional stress of caregiving, caregivers who are perfectionists need to be extremely cognizant of the mental and physical effects of family caregiving.Those who set impossible standards for themselves are also found to have trouble receiving feedback, which is particularly worrisome in caregiving situations. It’s rare that the caregiver is a total expert on how to care for yourself while caring for an aging parent, so it’s extremely important that they take in advice from doctors or other healthcare professionals when it comes to providing care.

Also, in order to prevent caregiver burnout, caregivers must see a situation for what it is. A perfectionist tends to mentally bend a problem or scenario into how it ought to be, where a caregiver who sees a situation in realistic way is more likely to appropriate react in the moment. Perfectionists are also more likely to dwell on mistakes and be overly hard on themselves for being imperfect, rather than focusing on learning from their errors in order to avoid the same oversights in the future.

Doing Your Best is Enough

Caregiving is a job with many variables, unforeseen circumstances and often unavoidable outcomes. All a caregiver can do is give their best and that’s more than anyone could ask for. If you ever find yourself doubting the quality of you’re providing, just remember: you do enough, you care enough, you are enough.


How Caregiving Will Change Over the Next Ten Years

Technology changes everything and that includes caregiving. Over the next ten years, it promises to make caregiving easier and improve the ability to care for loved ones. Whether you’re a dementia caregiver or long-distance caregiver, there are more and more resources to help with caregiving every day. The human touch will also be needed to avoid isolation and depression and those who look into the future have a good idea of how that can improve too.

Advances that support caregivers are essential as the demographics of the United States change. The population is aging and Baby boomers have fewer children than their parents did. As a result, there will be more seniors and fewer children to care for them; demand may outstrip capacity. That is going to drive the need for change and improved tools and support for caregivers. Here are a few examples of how technology will advance caregiving in the future:

Apps and online tools are going to increase: There are certainly many apps available now to help caregivers with their responsibilities. These will only grow in the coming decade. The challenge is to know which apps work well. Look for apps that apply directly to your needs. Apps are already being developed that help people prepare for surgery and recovery, and guides them through exercises for rehabilitation. Others help people to understand illness and learn about medications and their side effects.

Support for seniors living at home: Technology will continue to advance to support seniors who want to age in place and continue living in their own homes. As the technology advances it will have privacy checks in place so that only issues of concern, like falling and taking medication on time, will be tracked with the rest of daily activities kept private. Some examples of this include:

  • Remote monitoring in the home: The best of this technology provides remote monitoring for caregivers and physicians. Heart monitors, blood pressure monitors, and scales will be connected to doctor’s offices so they can receive daily readings from the senior. This can prevent conditions like heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease from worsening. It can also prevent the need for frequent trips to the doctor’s office, thereby reducing costs for everyone. For caregivers, this means fewer interruptions at work and better control of caregiving tasks.


  • Safety monitors in the home: These monitors are an extension of the caregiver during the day. As they continue to advance, monitors will be able to send a notification to the caregiver if his or her loved one has fallen, taken medication on time, left the house or remains in bed. For caregivers of loved ones with dementia, sensors will help to know if they are safe, detecting if the refrigerator has been opened or if a burner on the stove has been left on.


  • Smart homes: One of the most exciting developments is the smart home. It will make it easier and safer for seniors to age in place. For example, power outlets will be at waist level instead of near the floor to help prevent falls caused by imbalance. Assistance finding car keys, the television remote, and the telephone will be built into the house. Lights will turn on from sensors in the floor helping to prevent falls during the night. Different appliances in the home will be able to communicate with one another. For example, the refrigerator will be able to send a screen message to the television telling the viewer that the refrigerator door has been left open.

    What is old is new again. Futurists expect that as the senior population grows and there aren’t enough caregivers to meet the need, families may need to return to the nuclear, multi-generational family unit. Housing will have to expand to incorporate various generations so that it becomes easier to care for one another. Instead of senior housing, we will likely have multi-generational housing.

    The future of caregiving will continue to evolve and technology promises to help it change for the better. With new technologies comes new communication tools for long-distance caregivers; this makes for easier more efficient health monitoring, keeping an eye on loved ones is becoming more manageable. These new tools will become a great resource for caregivers, and even reduce the risk of caregiver burnout. We hope caregivers will be able to work smarter, not harder in the next ten years.

How Long-Distance Caregiving Impacts Work Productivity

We have written a lot about the physical and emotional impact of being a long-distance caregiver, along with the high levels of stress that can lead to caregiver burnout. There is one more important issue to discuss and that is the impact that long-distance caregiving responsibilities can have on work. Caregiving duties can easily disrupt work schedules and career paths.

A national study of 1,130 long-distance caregivers conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving with Zogby International looked at the impact of caregiving on work and the MetLife Mature Market Institute℠ published a report on the findings. It paints a picture of compassionate caregivers who are struggling to balance caregiving, their personal life, and work.

There are approximately 34 million American caregivers and 15% of them live one hour or more away from the person in their care. In fact, among study participants, caregivers lived an average distance of 450 miles from their loved one and traveled 7.23 hours one-way to visit them.

The study found that when it comes to balancing work and caregiving responsibilities there are many challenges for caregivers including work interruptions because of time spent on the phone coordinating care, responding to calls from their loved one and more. The majority of respondents in this study, (80%), were working either full or part-time.

  • The percent of long-distance caregivers working part-time increased substantially from the 1997 study, growing from 8% to 18%.
  • More than four in ten had to rearrange their work schedules in order to take care of their caregiving responsibilities.
  • 36% reported missing days of work.
  • 12% took a leave of absence from work.
  • Men and women reported in equal numbers that they had to rearrange work schedules – leaving early, arriving late, taking unpaid leave, or considering changing employers to accommodate caregiving responsibilities.

Even though men and women both reported that caregiving disrupted their work, women reported losing greater numbers of hours. This is due to the fact that women in the study were more likely to report that they were the only or the main caregiver in their situation, thereby absorbing more of the impact of caregiving responsibilities.

  • Women reported missing an average of 24 hours of work per month as a result of caregiving as opposed to 17 hours reported by men.
  • Women also reported spending more time than men in helping the care recipient around their home; 23.5 hours for women as opposed to 21 hours for men.
  • Women reported spending 14.5 hours a month helping their loved one with personal care and men reported 11 hours.
  • On average, women spent more money each month on services needed by the care recipient, $751 as opposed to $490 spent by men.

These issues increase stress on long-distance caregivers exponentially. Not only do they worry about the health and well-being of their loved one, they also have to worry about the status of their job and their own financial well-being. As the senior population continues to grow, services need to address these conflicting priorities and help to support caregivers. You shouldn’t ever feel under-resourced, however, if you find yourself wondering what resources are out there for accommodating long-distance care here are few tips.

While employers become aware of these issues and hopefully move to create supportive workplaces, professional at-home caregivers can help. They can be an extension of care for the long-distance caregiver and serve as the eyes and ears in the home of their loved ones. Professional caregivers are trained in many specialties, from Alzheimer’s disease to Parkinson’s disease. They can provide hourly or daily care on a regular basis or in times of special need like after hospital discharge or suffering a stroke. Given the enormity of caregiving, having a professional to help on site with a loved one can be a relief and a great support system for long-distance caregivers.

7 Habits of Highly Effective Caregivers

As the number of people over the age of 80 continues to grow more quickly than the number of people born, there is an increasing need for long-term care options. Many of us are finding ourselves in a position where we will either need to be a family caregiver or hire a professional caregiver. As someone who has dedicated her career to the care of seniors, I am aware of the qualities we can develop in ourselves as family caregivers or look for in professional caregivers to ensure our loved ones are cared for with the dignity and compassion he or she deserves. Here are 7 habits of highly effective caregivers:

  1. Be proactive, not reactive. Effective caregivers must know and get along with his or her client. Be weary of any home care agency that doesn’t ask for a client’s biography as it can provide an understanding of the personality, values and roles of the person for which he or she will be caring.
  2. Have a care plan. Begin with the end in mind and know the client’s ultimate care goals. If you are a caregiver, or especially if you plan on hiring a caregiver, it is imperative to have a care plan in place before the start of care. A good care plan outlines not only activities of daily living (ADLs) such as medication reminders, bathing or cooking, but also large-picture goals. Focus on possibilities as opposed to limitations and involve the person receiving care in the discussion.
  3. Put first things first. Once you have a care plan, prioritize goals. Remember that creating purpose and joy for our clients or loved ones is the ultimate goal, but there is no way to achieve it if the much more basic needs are not being met.
  4. Think win-win. As a caregiver, there are no shortcuts in providing quality care. Spending 5 to save 20 is a common phrase we use to demonstrate the importance of the caregiving relationship. For example, instead of pushing a loved one to the dining table in a wheelchair, allow your loved one to push it himself or herself, if able. Although this may take longer, it helps maintain strength, preserve dignity and promote conversation instead of a potential argument.
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Having someone listen to and understand us does not lessen with age. As a caregiver, understanding your clients’ unique needs and preferences is the best and only way to create trust and provide effective care. Giving time and attention is the greatest way to show someone not only that you care, but also that they matter.
  6. Synergize and collaborate. Caregivers and loved ones or clients should share their care experiences – It may be common to share problems, but share successes too! By opening communication, caregivers can better cater to the individual’s needs and preferences and have more fun along the way!
  7. Sharpen the saw. Being a caregiver can be stressful. That’s why it’s important to rememberif you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of someone else. That can be hard to embrace, so I invite you to say it over and over. An effective caregiver is one that understands that they are a human with needs and limits, just like the person they are caring for. You wouldn’t expect a dull saw to cut down a tree effectively, and you can’t expect yourself to be effective as a caregiver if you don’t take the time you need to stay sharp.