Being a caregiver is often a demanding and relentless responsibility. You can easily lose sight of your own health and well-being when taking care of a loved one, and there will be times when you feel overwhelmed with little to no control over the situation.
Caregiver depression and burnout is a very common result of taking on such a great responsibility. After all, it’s not easy watching an elderly or sick parent fade away over time while there’s nothing you can do about it; and sometimes you just get tired of caring for elderly parents. However, you’re not alone, and you don’t have to suffer from the stress that comes with the job.
If you want to find out what to do about caregiver burnout and how you can avoid it, keep reading.
What Being a Caregiver Means
Being a caregiver often involves many stressors that can have a serious emotional impact over time. Caring for someone else is more than just keeping them company and providing warmth. It’s a long-term relationship full of challenges. One of the biggest challenges that caregivers face is the loss of hope and realizing that their loved one will continue to fade away—despite their best efforts.
Being a caregiver means giving a part of yourself to whomever you’re responsible for. More often than not, a caregiver’s situation isn’t ideal. However, they’ll never admit to the inconvenience this type of situation causes at the risk of making their loved one feel as if they were a burden. They commit to taking care of their loved one wholeheartedly, which can be both exhausting and overwhelming at times.
When left unchecked, the stress of caregiving can lead to a decline in your health, relationships, and state of mind. This is typically defined as “caregiver burnout,” which is a state of complete emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. A burnt-out caregiver won’t be able to properly care for their loved one or themself, which causes both parties to suffer.
The Signs of Caregiver Burnout
Whether you’re coping with caring for elderly parents or someone you’re close to, the signs and symptoms of burnout can come on slow—but hit you all at once. The stress of the responsibility may be so great that a caretaker’s fatigue goes unnoticed until it’s too late.
That’s why it’s important to recognize these signs and symptoms so that you can avoid caretaker exhaustion:
- Fatigue—feeling more tired than usually or completely run down
- Anxiety, depression, irritability
- Sudden or worsening health issues
- Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
- Lack of focus and clarity
- Declining from regular, everyday activities and responsibilities
- Smoking, drinking or eating more as a response to stressors
The above listed are the signs that the downward spiral of caregiver burnout has begun. They’re often subtle and are written off as “just being tired.” If left unchecked, they can worsen into these symptoms:
- A consistent loss of energy
- Becoming sick more often
- Constant exhaustion no matter how much you sleep or nap
- Complete negligence of one’s own needs due to fatigue and/or indifference
- The inability to relax regardless of time off or available help
- Becoming increasingly impatient and irritable with whomever you’re caring for
- A loss of satisfaction that caregiving once brought you
- Constant feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
The signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout don’t just affect the caregiver. It also results in the elderly feeling like a burden, which puts stress on them as well. Of course, caring for a loved one is never a stress-free situation. However, there are ways to avoid becoming burnt out for the sake of your health and well-being—as well as for the sake of the person you’re caring for.
How to Avoid Elder Care Burnout
There are plenty of resources out there to help you avoid caregiver burnout. Most importantly, you need to cultivate your own emotional, mental, and physical well-being before you can take care of someone else. Here are five essential tips on how to do just that:
1. Know Your Limits
All relationships need healthy boundaries. There are some things you simply cannot do, and there is only so much you can take emotionally. The trick is figuring out what your limits are—physically, mentally, and emotionally—and knowing when you need to step back. If you’re at capacity emotionally or mentally, or physically feel like there’s something you can’t do, you need to be honest about it and address it.
2. Ask For Help
Part of knowing your limits is knowing when to ask for help. It’s true that caregiving is a choice, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Find someone you can trust to step in when you start feeling overwhelmed or need a break.
It’s important to take time for yourself and practice self-care. You don’t have to feel overwhelmed in order to take a break, either. You can carve out time in your schedule to meet up with friends or take time for your own hobbies to prevent burnout.
3. Be Realistic
You have to be realistic and accepting of your loved one’s disease or condition. This is especially true if it’s a progressive disease. Educate yourself about what they’re dealing with so you know what to expect and accept the fact that you can’t fix them. It’s also important to understand that there may come a time when you need to seek out nursing services or assisted living—and that’s okay!
4. Talk to a Professional
Whether you seek out a therapist or a support group for caregivers, it helps to lay your burden down with people who are trained to help you, or with people who are going through the same thing. This can help you manage your stress and make you feel less alone in your situation. It can also open the door to useful resources to help you manage feelings of stress and burnout.
5. Focus Only on What You Can Control
You can’t control what happens in your life. You can only control how you respond. Staying focused on what you can do rather than what you can’t do in stressful situations will go a long way for your mental and emotional health. Part of maintaining this focus is accepting your limitations and understanding that there will be certain things out of your control.
Take Care of Yourself
You can’t pour from an empty cup. Being a caregiver means taking care of yourself too, which means you’ll have to put yourself first from time to time—without feeling guilty.
Remember, it’s okay to ask for help. That’s what we’re here for. Read more about our at home care services or call our Care Team today at 434.202.8565.
Disclaimer: Please check with your physician before making any changes to your diet, exercise, or medication routine.