“The first virtue in a soldier is endurance of fatigue;

                                             courage is only the second virtue.” Napoleon Bonaparte


It is helpful to understand the nature, inclination and trends of giving care today. But of more immediate concern is the impact on the caregivers themselves. While many caregivers are able to manage, many others have discovered that caregiving is very complicated, often very time consuming, physically tiring and emotionally draining. It is no surprise the undercurrent feeling is that caregiving seriously drains the caregivers physically. That kind of fatigue has been known for a long time. But what about the emotional fatigue? Is there a relationship between physical fatigue and emotional fatigue when it comes to caregiving? Does one deserve more attention?  Let’s find out. 


Chracteristics Of Fatigue – The Google Dictionary suggests that fatigue is: “extreme tiredness, typically resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness, i.e. also: tiredness, weariness, sleepiness, drowsiness, weariness exhaustionenervation. Fatigue is also referred to as lethargy and listlessness, and is described as a physical and/or mental state of being tired and weak.” 

Although physical fatigue and mental fatigue are different, the two often exist together – if a person is physically exhausted for long enough, he is likely to also be mentally tired. Then who is best to help with that? There may not be a single answer for that question. We are all so different. So a single answer isn’t obvious. But there are answers, and they need understanding.


Fatigue Symptoms - When somebody experiences physical fatigue, it means he cannot continue functioning his normal level of physical ability. Mental fatigue, however, is more slanted towards feeling sleepy and being unable to concentrate properly. Fatigue is a symptom, rather than a sign. A symptom is something the patient feels and describes, such as a headache or dizziness, while a sign is something the doctor can detect without talking to the patient, such as a rash. Fatigue is a non-specific symptom, i.e. it may have several possible causes (5)


Progressively Tedious - Many influences and pressures go to making up fatigue. In the case of a caregiver, fatigue usually is the result of 24/7 intense and continuous labor. Caring for a loved one can be difficult and progressively tedious. But that kind of labor brings with it a different kind of fatigue. It is comprehensive, tiring, angrily annoying and monotonous. In many cases it never goes away. It returns every day as an unwelcome guest.  That type of fatigue lessens the caregiver’s confidence and desire to return to caregiving duty the next day. The stories are endless regarding how hard it is to continue caregiving when fatigue sets in.

Feeling Helpless – The bottom line of the fatigue scenario is all so familiar. Regardless of how difficult the care giving situation may be or how futile the circumstances seem to be, and the caregiver exhausted, the situation is not helpless nor need it remain hopeless. Having the faith to believe that something physical can happen, and the determination to bring it about are human characteristics given to everyone. Being helpless is on one side of the coin, the flip side is hope and possibilities. Make the right choice. Relief from your fatigue may depend on it. Don’t wait for others to rescue you.

Common Characteristics of a Caregiver - There are many typical characteristics that family caregivers regularly experience. We are indebted to the ALS Association for the list noted below:

  • You’re probably a “primary caregiver,” which means you’re basically in charge of everything that happens to your care receiver.

  • As a primary caregiver, you get little or no help from anyone else. The help that you do get comes from family or friends.

  • If you’re a family caregiver, you provide about 80% of all personal and medically-related care and about 90% of all home-help services.

  • Most likely, you’re caring for your spouse. If you’re not a spouse, you’re probably a son, daughter, or daughter-in-law.

  • You could be anywhere from 21 to 90 years of age. The average age of all caregivers is in the mid-fifties.

  • You’ve possibly had some previous, short-term experience giving care to a friend, family member, or loved one.

  • If you’re an average caregiver, you’re spending four hours a day, seven days a week with your care receiver. If your care receiver is severely impaired, you could be spending over 40 hours a week giving heavy-duty care and be on-call 24 hours a day.

  • If you’re a family caregiver, you’re more than likely employed. That means you have to use a lot of creativity to balance your work and home responsibilities with your caregiving duies.

  • You’re also concerned about your own health. You should be with all the work you have to do!

Final Thought - From the website of comes these troubling statistics: 

"Although most of us would like to die in our sleep and not require long-term care, statistically that rarely happens.  Seventy percent of people over age 65 will require long-term care, and fifty percent will need long-term care for at least a year. One out of five elders will need care that lasts for five years or more. Women are twice as likely as men to need care that lasts for more than five years."

We can safely conclude that it is not advisable to do nothing. Being prepared for the future is wise. There is much that can be done. Much is spoken in this article. Select what you can use and act - now.