By Ellen S. Platt, MEd, CRC, CCM, Aging LifeCare Manager
Being a caregiver is incredibly demanding, and not just physically. Many caregivers experience caregiver burnout, or a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that is often accompanied by a change in attitude.
Burnout can occur when a caregiver is not getting adequate support or when they are going beyond their physical, financial, or emotional abilities to provide care. It may affect all aspects of functioning, making it difficult to do even the simplest of tasks. What are the symptoms of caregiver burnout?
Watch for These Symptoms:
Because the symptoms of caregiver burnout are similar to symptoms of other conditions like exhaustion, stress, and depression, it is important that you speak with your doctor as soon as possible. The most common symptoms of caregiver burnout include:
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies that you used to enjoy
- Feeling irritable
- Persistent sadness or depression
- Changes in your sleep patterns
- Changes in your appetite or weight (increasing or decreasing)
- Getting sick more often or more easily
- Emotional or physical exhaustion
- Feeling like you resent or want to hurt the person you are caring for, or yourself
- Using sleep medications, coffee, or alcohol excessively
The Causes of Caregiver Burnout are Varied, and Include:
- Roll confusion between being a caregiver and a spouse, child, friend, or parent
- Work-life balance is key to maintaining equilibrium
- Schedule times of respite from the caregiving role
- Lack of control over time, resources, money, or medical outcomes
- Not realizing the signs early enough, which allows things to get even worse
- Lack of psychosocial support and/or others to help with the caregiving role
- Unreasonable burdens or demands placed upon them by themselves, family, friends, or the person being taken care of
Preventing Caregiver Burnout:
- Talk with someone that you trust, who is not directly involved in the life of the person you are caring for, to talk about your feelings. This can be a friend, someone also in a caregiving role, or mental health professional.
- Have a collaborative relationship with the primary care physician of the person you are caring for, to seek support with medical care.
- Be sure to attend to your own health and medical needs.
- Set realistic goals for your role as a caregiver and realize that you will need to delegate some tasks and appointments. Ask for help. Make specific requests of others to support you.
- Know what your limits are and when you have reached them. Step back when you need to for respite. Don’t think that you are able to avoid the potential for caregiver burnout. Regularly assess yourself for the signs and schedule times of respite BEFORE you need them.
- Practice healthy coping mechanisms like exercising, socializing, meditating, or pursuing leisure time activities, instead of things with a high potential for abuse like alcohol.
- Make sure that you are getting enough sleep every night.
- Acknowledge that your feelings are valid and that negative feelings like anger and frustration are normal.
- Seek support from others in a similar role. You are not alone. There are many caregiver support groups that can help you to speak with other people in similar situations, and have guidance from professionals who can educate you and make suggestions to help your situation.
If you or someone you care about needs additional support to help cope, The Option Group is here to help. Please contact our professional care management team for assistance.
About The Option Group: Founded in 2010, The Option Group’s compassionate team of experienced Certified Life Care Managers serves families, their loved ones, medical professionals, and professional family advisors in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The firm understands the challenges of caring for an individual who needs assistance due to aging, dementia, disability, or serious illness. Their skilled providers possess over 100 years of combined experience navigating the healthcare maze and accessing hundreds of quality resources. The Option Group helps families spend quality time with their loved ones, providing clear choices that lead to better care. For more information, visit www.theoptiongroup.net or call 410-667-0266 (MD) or 717-287-9900 / 610-885-8899/ 215-896-6756 (PA) / or 302-858-6449 (DE).