Recognizing Caregiver Burnout and Strategies for Coping

Health & Wellness
senior caregiver with elderly man

Posted: July 29, 2020

If you are one of the millions of Americans taking care of an aging parent, family member, or a spouse who requires daily care, you are at risk of developing caregiver burnout. This very real condition is defined as a debilitating psychological condition brought about by unrelieved stress. Healthcare professionals do not take this lightly—and neither should you.

The more you know about caregiver burnout, the better you can protect yourself.

Recognizing the Signs of Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver burnout is all too common. In a survey by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute, 40 percent of caretakers felt emotionally stressed and about 20 percent felt physically strained.

There are warning signs before burnout occurs. Being aware of and watching for them should signal that it’s time to take steps to combat the stress you are under. Some signs to be alert for include:

  • Feeling anxious or depressed
  • Avoiding people
  • Losing interest in the things you normally like to do
  • Neglecting your own needs, including your health
  • Feeling like you have no control over your life
  • Having a short fuse
  • Gaining or losing weight because you have drastically changed your eating habits
  • Getting sick because your resistance is down

When One Spouse Is Caring for the Other

When you find yourself caring for a spouse with an illness and your daily life has become much more difficult than you ever imagined, it can be an incredibly lonely time. Social activities decrease, and friends are often lost for spouse caregivers. The tasks of caregiving take over any free time that may have once been available. Loneliness and isolation can lead to depression and even thoughts of suicide.

Spousal caregivers often feel torn between caring for themselves or their partner. Many feel guilty for doing too little or too much. Some caregivers are unhappy with this unexpected role, and those feelings are valid. Caregiving can also take a toll on physical health.

The Sandwich Generation

The sandwich generation is a term given to those who are taking care of their children who are too young to care for themselves—as well an aging parent or relative. With the responsibility of providing care for multiple individuals of varying ages weighing on their shoulders, these people—usually middle-aged adults—can feel stressed, overwhelmed, and under-appreciated.

Often these caregivers have jobs outside of the home, and many feel forced to sacrifice their career to manage caregiving duties. This not only can lead to financial problems, but the transition to full-time “caregiver” can be a frustrating and difficult one.

Ways to Cope with Caregiver Stress

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to do it all. Ask family and friends to help with some of your caretaking tasks. You should also seek support from those close to you or a support group so you can process your feelings and emotions. Don’t be afraid to say no if saying yes means taking on more than you can handle.

Make sure you take regular breaks; these are necessary to help relieve stress and restore your energy. Social activities are important, so don’t feel guilty for continuing to do the things you enjoy that can get you away from the daily routine and setting of caregiving.

If you don’t take care of your own health, you cannot take care of someone else. Don’t put off doctor appointments for preventive care. Get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy diet. Exercise regularly to relieve stress, increase energy, and take time for yourself. Regular exercise can also boost your mood and help keep depression at bay.

Take family leave, if possible, from your full-time job. Removing the stress of work can reduce your responsibilities and free up more time for yourself.

How to Know When It Is Time for Assistance

When the time comes that it is no longer feasible for you to continue as caregiver, it might be time to consider home care services. Rhythms Home Care has a highly trained team, dedicated to helping those living in their own home with additional supports for a successful life, by their own definition. Our in-home care services range from medication reminders, help with dressing and bathing, transportation and light medical services. Additionally, we provide annual competency training for our PCA and CNA team members and ongoing monthly training for our staff. All of our team members receive specialized instruction to support those living with dementia.

It can be challenging to ask for help when you are used to doing things on your own, and family members often feel guilty when they can’t do it all. Having a mission-driven care partner such as Rhythms Home Care can give you peace of mind – knowing that your loved one is well cared for, and give you the time to take care of yourself as well. Contact us today for more information on how we can help.

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