April is National Stress Awareness Month. Most people are under some level stress due to everyday life situations, and our family caregiver is not immune. In fact, caregiver burnout is more common than most families think. WebMD defines caregiver burnout as a “state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude — from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned”.
Caregivers often burn the candle at both ends. They are so busy caring for their aging loved one and their own family members that they tend to neglect themselves. The demands on a caregiver – both emotional and physical – can easily seem overwhelming, leading to fatigue and hopelessness…and ultimately burnout.
Signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout.
The symptoms of caregiver burnout are like the symptoms of stress and depression. They may include:
- 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
- Feelings of wanting to harm yourself or the person for whom you are caring
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
- Excessive use of alcohol and/or sleep medications
What to look out for and how to protect your long-term health.
Burnout can occur when caregivers don’t get the help they need, or when they try to take on more than they are able. Caregivers who are “burned out” may experience fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression, and they may feel guilty if they spend time away from the person in their care.
It is so important for the caregiver to stop for a moment to check in with how they’re feeling and get in touch with their own spiritual, physical and emotional needs. Failure to do so may lead to burnout and it may negatively impact their ability to provide care for their loved one. By recognizing the signs and understanding the causes of burnout, a caregiver can take preventative measures to ensure they are properly caring for themselves.
- Negative emotions are normal. Caregiving is a very personal and rewarding experience, but it can also bring a great deal of frustration. The general day-to-day care of a loved one can make for long and demanding hours. Feelings of frustration and anger can occur when you’re exhausted and need a break. These are all normal emotions to experience and do not make you a bad person or caregiver.
- Understand and recognize your limits. There are only so many hours in the day and you are only one person. Caregiving has many duties and it can be difficult to accomplish them all in one day. Unexpected things happen and some of the tasks you wanted to accomplish just may have to wait. Having to push things back or not being able to complete everything on your “to do” list does not make you an inefficient or poor caregiver.
- Ask for help. This seems to be the hardest thing for a family caregiver to do, but it’s the most important thing they can do. Take a stand for yourself and ask family members to take on a certain daily or weekly tasks. Or you can consider hiring a professional who can support you. FirstLight Home Care’s Companion Care or Personal Care services are customized to help both the family caregiver and their loved one. Our extraordinary caregivers know and understand what you’re going through and they are in place to support your needs.
Caregiver burnout is real and should not be dismissed. Communicating regularly and developing solutions with family members, support groups or professional community services and organizations before everything unravels will help ensure that family caregivers maintain a healthy life balance.
FirstLight Home Care is proud to champion the family caregiver! If you’re caring for a loved one and would like to receive tips, advice, and information like this each week, we encourage you to subscribe to our weekly blog. We’ll deliver it right to your inbox every Thursday!