Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude. This condition affects many different caregivers across the world. The job of a caregiver can be a full filling and enjoyable one but it can also be taxing on an individual. In order to prevent caregiver burnout, it is important to asses the symptoms and causes.
What are the symptoms of Caregiver Burnout?
- Withdrawal from Friends and Family
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless, and helpless
- Changes in appetite, weight, or both
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Getting sick more often
- A feeling of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
- Excessive use of alcohol and/or sleep medications
What causes caregiver burnout?
- Role Confusion- Many people are confused when thrust into the role of caregiver. It can be difficult for a person to separate their role as a caregiver from their role as a spouse, child, friend, etc.
- Unrealistic Expectations- Many caregivers expect their involvement to have a positive effect on the health and happiness of the patient. This may be unrealistic for patients suffering from a progressive disease, such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's.
- Lack of Control- Many caregivers become frustrated by a lack of money, resources, and skills to effectively plan, manage, and organize their loved one's care.
- Unreasonable Demands- Some caregivers place unreasonable burdens upon themselves, in part because they see providing care as their exclusive responsibility.
- Other Factors- Many caregivers cannot recognize when they are suffering burnout and eventually get to the point where they cannot function effectively. They may even become sick themselves.
How can I prevent Caregiver Burnout?
- Find Someone You Trust- to talk to about your feelings and frustrations. This could be a friend, co-worker, or neighbor.
- Set Realistic Goals- Accept that you may need help with caregiving, and turn to others for help with some tasks.
- Be Realistic About Your Loved One's Disease- Especially if it is a progressive disease such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's.
- Don't forget about yourself because you're too busy caring for someone else. Set aside time for yourself, even if it's just an hour or two. Remember, taking care of yourself is not a luxury; it is an absolute necessity if you're going to be an effective caregiver.
- Talk to a professional. Most therapists, social workers, and clergy members are trained to counsel individuals dealing with a wide range of physical and emotional issues.
- Take advantage of respite care services. Respite care provides a temporary break for caregivers. This can range from a few hours of in-home care to a short stay in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
- Know your limits and do a reality check of your personal situation. Recognize and accept your potential for caregiver burnout.
- Educate Yourself- The more you know about the illness, the more effective you will be in caring for the person with the illness.
- Develop new tools for coping- Remember to lighten up and accentuate the positive. Use humor to help deal with everyday stresses.
- Stay healthy- by eating right and getting plenty of exercise and sleep
- Accept your feelings- Having feelings such as frustration or anger about your responsibilities or the person you are caring for is normal. It does not mean you are a bad person or a bad caregiver.
Though caregiving can be rewarding it is important to take steps to prevent caregiver burn out. There are caregiver support groups and forums where you can talk to like-minded individuals who can share their own experiences and advice. As mentioned above it is also a good idea to take advantage of respite programs which can give you a break from caregiving.