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Caregiver Burnout: What It Is And How To Cope With It

Caregivers Holding Hands and Providing Comfort to Each Other

While caring for a loved one is a rewarding experience, sometimes it can be challenging and overwhelming. Although there are many ways to find joy in caregiving, it can be disheartening if you feel helpless and have no hope that your loved one will get better or if, despite your best efforts, their condition is deteriorating. The emotional impact can snowball over time, eventually leading to something called caregiver burnout.

What Is Caregiver Burnout?

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion, when caregivers may feel alone, unsupported, or unappreciated. It happens when the stress and burden of caring for a loved one becomes overwhelming, and you don’t get the help and support you need. As many caregivers feel guilty when they spend time on themselves rather than on their loved ones, their own needs sometimes get neglected, which can lead to burnout, causing a decline in their mental and physical health.

Remember that burnout is a common occurrence in caregivers and if you experience it, you didn’t do anything wrong to cause it. However, if it’s not addressed, caregiver burnout can lead to depression and eventually, you can lose interest in caring for yourself and for the person you’re looking after, and you’ll be unable to provide good care. Therefore, getting proper support is extremely important.

What Causes Caregiver Burnout?

  • Role confusion: Separating the roles of being a caregiver and a spouse, child, or friend can be confusing for caregivers.
  • Unrealistic expectations: You may expect your care to have a positive effect on the health and happiness of your loved one. However, this may be unrealistic for people with a progressive disease like Parkinson’s or dementia.
  • Lack of control: Wanting to do everything for your loved one while lacking the money, resources, and skills can be frustrating.
  • Unrealistic demands: As you may see caregiving as your main responsibility, you may end up taking on too much and demanding too much of yourself.

Warning Signs

There are warning signs before burnout occurs. Being aware of these helps you recognize when to take steps to manage or prevent the stress you’re experiencing.

  • Avoiding people and isolating yourself emotionally and physically
  • Becoming angry and argumentative
  • Being irritable and impatient
  • Changes in appetite, weight, or both
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Feeling anxious, depressed, exhausted, or hopeless
  • Getting sick more often
  • Having a lack of energy
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy, neglecting your needs and health
  • Using alcohol or sleep medications. As burnout progresses and depression and anxiety increase, a caregiver may use alcohol or drugs, especially stimulants, to try to relieve the symptoms.

Treatment And Prevention

Keeping these warning signs in mind is important to recognize when you have caregiver burnout. There are a number of things you can do to take care of yourself, stay healthy, and prevent or manage burnout, such as:

  • Ask for help: Never feel awkward about asking for help, you don’t have to do everything alone. You can turn to family, friends, or even cooperate with an in-home caregiver.
  • Attend social activities: Meeting with friends, continuing your hobbies, and doing things you enjoy are important to maintain your happiness and avoid isolating yourself. Do something that gets you away from the daily routine and setting of caregiving.
  • Be honest with yourself: Evaluate what you can and cannot do. This can sometimes be difficult when all you want is to do everything for your loved one, but that sometimes just isn’t possible. Our Home Care Assessment helps you decide if it’s time to start thinking about in-home care for your loved one.
  • Eat a healthy diet and exercise: Eating nutritious meals keeps you healthy and improves energy and stamina, while exercising is a great way to relieve stress, increase energy, and take time for yourself.
  • Get Support: Sharing what you’re going through with family, friends, or a support group can help you process your emotions. Don’t hold everything in to avoid feeling overwhelmed and depressed. Browse these useful resources available for caregivers.
  • Maintain your sleep schedule. Getting enough rest is important for your well-being and to maintain your stamina.
  • Take regular breaks. Breaks help relieve some of your stress and restore your energy. Even 10-minute breaks can help.

Taking care of your mental and physical health is crucial, as you can only really be there for your loved one with an illness if you’re feeling well yourself.

If you feel like sharing your experience with a dementia expert, you can schedule a 30-minute free session to discuss your current situation, challenges, and concerns. We can provide a professional recommendation on next steps and referrals for any care services you may need for your loved one.

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