What is caregiver fatigue?
Fatigue is an overwhelming sense of tiredness. If you are fatigued, you may have little energy to do the things you normally do - even if you are getting enough sleep. You may feel tired all the time, weak, worn out, slow, or heavy. You may also feel sad, irritable, and frustrated. Fatigue can affect your quality of life, mood, relationships, and performance. You should deal with symptoms of fatigue as this can impact the care you are able to deliver to your loved one.
What can I do about my fatigue?
Here are some tips:
- Allow yourself to get enough sleep, roughly 8 hours of sleep a night.
- Nap no more than 30-45 minutes in the late morning or early afternoon.
- Stay active during the day. Get at least 15 minutes of exercise every day.
- Try not to overload your daily to-do list. Be realistic about what you can accomplish each day.
- Space out your activities with periods of rest.
- Make time for things you enjoy. Read a book or take a relaxing bath.
- Try relaxation exercises or meditation.
- Eat a healthy diet. Have healthy snacks around, like a bowl of fruit, vegetables, or cheese. Avoid fatty and fried foods, especially at bedtime.
- Drink water or beverages without caffeine to keep hydrated. Avoid caffeine after 3 pm, including coffee, colas, black teas, and chocolate.
- Join an online or in-person support group. Support groups can provide suggestions and reassurance in a safe environment.
- Talk to others about your fatigue.
- Get help with caregiving and household chores so you can take breaks. Consider respite care if needed.
When should I talk to my doctor about my fatigue?
Talk to your doctor if you are:
- Unable to get out of bed for 24 hours
- Having a hard time focusing while talking, reading, watching TV, etc.
- Unable to do your usual daily activities
- Have severe chills or sweats
- Have a temperature above 100.9 F (38.3 C) or a temperature higher than 100.4 F (38.0 C) that lasts for more than an hour
- Are short of breath
Also, let your doctor know:
- When your fatigue started
- If it’s gotten worse
- What helps or makes it worse
- How it affects your activities
- Zheng, Y., Cotton, A.C., He, L., & Wuest, L. G. (2021). Spirituality-integrated interventions for caregivers of patients with terminal illness: A systematic review of quantitative outcomes. Journal of Religion and Health, 60, 2939–2959 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10943-021-01221-w
- Faieta, J., Sheehan, J., & DiGiovine , C. (2022). Mhealth interventions to improve health and quality of life related outcomes for informal dementia caregivers: A scoping review. Assistive Technology, 34(3), 362-374, DOI: 10.1080/10400435.2020.1829174
- Langenberg, S.M.C.H., vanHerpen, C.M.L., van Opstal, C.C.M., Wymenga, A.N.M., van der Graaf, W.T.A., Prins, J.B. (2019). Caregivers’ burden and fatigue during and after patients’ treatment with concomitant chemoradiotherapy for locally advanced head and neck cancer: A prospective observational pilot study. Supportive Care in Cancer, 27(11) 4145-4154