What is Caregiver Burnout, and How Can You Avoid it?

Caregiver burnout

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) most often require on-the-clock guidance, support, and personalized instruction from a parent or caregiver. This constant need to put aside personal obligations for the betterment of someone else can quickly bring on emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. Autism care professionals and experts refer to these feelings as caregiver burnout, especially when they persist for days to weeks.

At ABA Centers of Virginia, we’re exceptionally familiar with caregiver burnout and how it affects parents and loved ones. Whether you experience minor or severe symptoms of caregiver burnout, addressing these feelings before they worsen and negatively impact several aspects of your life is essential. Luckily, with the proper tips and strategies, you can overcome caregiver burnout and provide your loved one with the love and support they need to become their best selves. Let’s discuss caregiver burnout, why it happens, and ways you can incorporate self-care into your daily routine.

How and Why Does Caregiver Burnout Begin?

There is no denying that caring for a child with a developmental disorder like ASD demands time, patience, and exceptional resolve. Parents and caregivers in these roles must provide unrelenting support that often limits their ability to focus on personal needs and emotions. They may feel that all their efforts must go toward the child or teen on the spectrum and become susceptible to guilt if they don’t reach these self-imposed expectations. While these expectations are standard for any parent, they exacerbate tenfold when caring for someone who requires extensive commitment.

Caregiver burnout frequently causes exhaustion, confusion, and feelings of hopelessness when the situation worsens. Parents may feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious even when not caring for their child or loved one. While specific symptoms can vary between each individual, some of the most common signs of caregiver burnout include the following:

  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in appetite
  • More frequent illnesses
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and loved ones
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Irritability
  • Hostility and aggression
  • Severe stress and anxiety
  • Depression

A less-discussed but major factor of caregiver burnout is role confusion. When a parent or caregiver’s emotional needs remain unmet, it can lead them to look to their child to fill that void. Consequently, they may have trouble separating their duties as a caregiver from their role as a mother, father, or even spouse. This confusion can shatter close relationships and create a blame game where the victim of burnout can’t accept fault.

Tips to Avoid Caregiver Burnout

Fortunately, there are many strategies a person can employ in their daily life to alleviate or altogether avoid the symptoms of caregiver burnout. Aside from our comprehensive ABA therapy programs, one of the driving focuses of ABA Centers of Virginia is providing detailed resources and invaluable tips for autism care. Check out this list of tips to keep you afloat during difficult times:

1. Prioritize Self-Help – Developing practical self-help techniques can relieve stress and anxiety associated with caregiver burnout. Parents and caregivers can reflect on their situation by highlighting the more challenging aspects of their role and finding ways to simplify them. Here are some techniques to consider:

  • Reserving time to relax or partake in something you enjoy
  • Setting realistic goals to achieve
  • Understanding limits and avoiding overexertion
  • Exercising and eating healthy foods
  • Maintaining proper sleep hygiene
  • Accentuating positives in stressful situations


2. Familiarize Yourself with Autism Care – Parents and caregivers can utilize various resources such as blogs, FAQs, and articles from others in similar roles. These tools offer personal insights that help caregivers handle challenging situations and unexpected events better. Many times, these insights reveal strategies that you may not have considered.

Parents and caregivers should remember that they aren’t alone in their endeavors. Outside options exist, and there are always things you can improve on. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to reach out to those who wish to see you succeed.

3. Reach Out For Help – Just as parents and caregivers can benefit from relatable sources, they can also benefit from professional help such as therapy, life coaching, and peer mentorship. Vocalizing your feelings to a mental health professional can help alleviate stress and anxiety, especially during bouts of depression. However, it doesn’t only need to be a professional; confide in close companions, relatives, friends, co-workers, and loved ones who can hear you out and offer support in any way they can.

One of the least beneficial things a parent or caregiver experiencing burnout can do is bottle up these feelings and keep their emotions locked in. By expressing your situation openly and honestly, you can learn ways to cope with challenges as they come rather than seeking answers after the problem occurs.

4. Utilize Respite Care Services – These short-term services provide parents and caregivers with certified professionals who will tend to a child’s needs for a specified period, ranging from an hour to multiple days per week. Parents can choose to have the trained professional carry out their duties from the client’s home or in a respite care facility.

There are two main types of respite care which offer differing levels of service:

  • Traditional – In a traditional setting, respite care providers handle in-home activities and basic personal needs such as using the restroom, playing, preparing meals, and personal hygiene such as handwashing and brushing teeth.
  • Specialized – If a parent or caregiver opts for specialized respite care, they most likely need additional support for other tasks throughout the day. This support can extend to teaching, supervising, and other actions that give parents and caregivers a short break to recover physically and emotionally.

While the costs of respite care services may turn some away, many funding options can help with financing. These include the National Respite Network, the RAISE Family Caregiving Advisory Council, and other programs.

5. Enroll Your Child in ABA TherapyApplied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, widely recognized as the gold standard in autism care, is a fantastic way to alleviate or help parents avoid caregiver burnout. These comprehensive and tailored programs teach children on the spectrum various tools and life skills that would otherwise be the caregiver’s responsibility. By fostering independence and autonomy, parents have fewer challenging duties and can spend more time bettering themselves.

ABA therapy teaches fine and gross motor skills, daily living, reading, writing, social play, and coping, which can lessen the chance of challenging behaviors and situations frequently occurring. Parents and caregivers can alleviate stress and feel relieved knowing their child is in the hands of dedicated ABA professionals trained to teach these skills.

Get Your Child Started at ABA Centers of Virginia

ABA Centers of Virginia employs a patient-centered approach to ABA therapy that provides children with beneficial social and behavioral skills. We enhance communication skills, academics, and daily living techniques to alleviate various challenges parents and caregivers face. Nearly all of our programs utilize positive reinforcement to bring forth these positive changes in the child’s and caregiver’s lives.

Call (855) 957-1892 or visit our website for more information regarding our ABA therapy services or a free consultation.

Scroll to Top