How to Know When Caring for Another is “Too Much”

The decision to become someone’s primary caregiver is not an easy one. Often, we feel responsible to take care of those we love, without fully appreciating the time, effort and expectations around being responsible for someone else’s well being. Because of this, after taking on the responsibility of caring for another, it’s not uncommon to find yourself in a place where it is simply “too much.”

If you’ve made the choice to be a primary caregiver for someone, the following four suggestions below can help you to better define both the care you provide to them and when you need to let go and seek other, professional help.

Define your limits: In the beginning, before take the decision to become a primary caregiver, take time to clearly define the limits of what you are willing to do. This includes not only listing the physical tasks you’ll perform (e.g. Will you clean house? Run errands? Administer medicine?); but also clearly defining the time and days you’ll be available for care, what you’ll do when you are not able to provide care and how you’ll ensure that you’ll be able to maintain a healthy, full life outside of the caregiving setting.

  • Have a care plan: Creating a care plan for the individual you’ll be serving is essential. This plan will make sure you’re on the same page with them, and the entire family about managing responsibilities, having clear agreements on medication, providing and anticipating future needs, ensuring holistic support and set a benchmark for measuring success and a tipping point for when alternatives need to be actualized.
  • Safety: As you consider providing care for another, it is incredible important that you consider safety – for both you and the person your caring for. If you are unable to ensure that the environment you’ll be working in is safe for both of you, consider alternatives.
  • Escalating care needs: As the person you are caring for ages, or their condition continues to worsen, you may find it impossible to provide the level of care they require. This should be a part of defining your limits and having a care plan – clearly stating when you need to step away in order for others that are more capable to step in.

Finally, it is important to note that choosing to become the primary caregiver for another can be extremely stressful. So much so, that caregiver stress can be equivalent to post-traumatic stress disorder. If you find yourself becoming increasingly frustrated, guilty, lonely or exhausted, or if you’re experiencing physical symptoms such as gaining weight, constant anxiety and inability to sleep, you should immediately seek personal, professional counseling and pass the responsibility of caring to another.