Asking questions: Assess a caregivers’ burnout

Paying attention to a myriad of small signs in both the caregiver’s and the patient’s behavior can alert the home health nurse to a need for intervention, says Nancy Stallings, MAM, program manager for caregiver support for Salt Lake County Aging Services in Salt Lake City. In presentations to home health personnel as well as other health care personnel who have the opportunity to interact with caregivers, Stallings presents the following 10 questions as a good way to assess burnout or a sense of being overwhelmed by caregivers.1

1. How much rest are the caregivers getting?

2. What personal sacrifices are caregivers making in order to serve the person’s needs?

3. Are the caregivers neglecting their own needs?

4. Is constant surveillance required as part of care tasks?

5. Have caregivers turned to alcohol or drug abuse in their distress? Has substance abuse been lifelong?

6. How drastically has the patient’s personality changed in response to illness?

7. Are caregivers receiving verbal or physical abuse from the person in their care?

8. Is the primary caregiver overwhelmed by demands from several dependent people at once?

9. Are financial constraints interfering with caregivers’ ability to follow medical advice?

10. Are problems from the family history resurfacing and contributing to abuse or neglect?

All of these questions address triggers that can lead to caregiver burnout, Stallings says.

If home health personnel notice that caregivers are neglecting their own needs, using alcohol, being abused by the patient, or experiencing financial hardships, then it is imperative that other support systems such as social services, community organizations, or other family members be called upon to help, she says.


1. Lustbader W, Hooyman NR. Taking Care of Aging Family Members: A Practical Guide. 1st ed. New York City: Free Press; 1994.