It can be tough to care for a loved one with a severe health condition. Aside from the emotional stress, providing care also involves lots of physical work. This can include managing medication schedules, providing transportation to appointments, and helping with basic tasks like bathing and dressing.
Statistics show that one out of five Americans is a family caregiver. Comparing their health to five years ago, family caregivers these days are in worse shape. One reason for this is due to caregiver burnout.
Defining Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. It can happen when someone cares for another person for an extended period. This can include caring for a spouse with Alzheimer’s disease, a disabled child, or even a terminally ill loved one.
Some people have no choice but to be in charge of their loved one’s care. Others have the option to hire in-home care assistance, but they can’t afford it. Regardless of the reason, it is important to be aware of the signs of burnout if you are a caregiver.
Signs You May Be Suffering From Caregiver Burnout
If you are a caregiver, pay attention to the following signs that you may be suffering from burnout:
You’re Constantly Tired
Caregiving can be exhausting at times. However, you are constantly tired and still feel exhausted even after a good night’s sleep. This is one of the most common signs of caregiver burnout.
When you constantly care for someone else, finding time to take care of yourself can be challenging. As a result, you may not be getting enough rest or proper nutrition. You might skip meals because you don’t have time to cook or are not hungry.
If you’re always tired, concentrating and making decisions can be tricky. You may also find yourself getting angry more easily. After lashing out or taking your frustration out on others, you may feel guilty and wonder if you’re cut out for this caregiving gig.
You Feel Isolated
Feeling isolated from the outside can be easy when you’re a caregiver. You might not have time to participate in activities that you used to enjoy or keep in touch with friends and family. It’s also a common occurrence that many caregivers have to leave their jobs to care for their loved ones full-time.
Studies show that 44% of caregivers feel isolated due to caregiving duties. This isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. You may feel like you’re the only one who understands what you’re going through.
You Are Sick More Often
When stressed, you have a suppressed immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. Caregivers often find themselves getting sick more often than they did before they started caregiving.
This can be a vicious cycle because it can be even more difficult to care for someone else when you’re sick. If you’re constantly getting sick, it might be a sign that you need to take a break from caregiving.
Fighting Caregiver Stress
Taking action is crucial if you are a caregiver experiencing any of these signs. Doing so will enable you to stay effective in your role and prevent further health problems down the road.
There are a few things you can do to ease caregiver stress:
Talk to Your Doctor About Your Symptoms and Ask For Help
Family caregivers can have varying symptoms that are uncommon to other people. You could be experiencing physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion all at once. As a result, you might not even realize what you’re feeling is burnout.
Talking to your doctor can help you get to the root of your problem and find solutions. Your doctor might also be able to refer you to support groups or counseling.
Consider Help From Professional Services
You don’t have to go through this alone. There are professional services that can help. Home health aides can provide respite care, which gives you a break from caregiving duties. Hospice care services can also help you and your family during the end-of-life process. Choosing one that best suits your situation will make it easier for you to be there for your loved one.
Hospice care can provide pain management, respite care, and emotional support for you and your loved one. This is because such services don’t only focus on the patient but the family caregiver too. Experts know how taxing caregiving can be and are willing to take care of certain tasks by providing physician services, skilled nursing services, and social services. It would be better to find one that offers spiritual services so you and your loved one can gain spiritual support.
Take Care of Yourself
Don’t forget about taking care of yourself both physically and emotionally. Your role may have made it easy to let healthy habits fall by the wayside. But if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for someone else.
Make sure you get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly. Taking some time for yourself — even if it’s just for 30 minutes a day — can make a world of difference.
It also helps to catch up with friends or family members who can provide emotional support. Sharing your experiences with them can help you feel less alone in this journey.
You can also try relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation to help calm your mind and body. You can minimize caregiver stress and prevent burnout by giving yourself the kind of attention you deserve.
Caregiving is a rewarding but challenging role. This is why it’s crucial to be aware of the signs of caregiver stress so you can take action before it’s too late. Remember that while your loved one’s health safety matters, you should consider yourself a priority. Knowing the signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout can help you get the support you need to continue providing quality care for your loved one.