How to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
If you are the primary caregiver for a disabled or senior family member, chances are you’ve heard the term “caregiver burnout.” You may even be experiencing it yourself.
Caregiver burnout occurs when a caregiver is unable to take time for themselves to rest and focus on their mental health. A person suffering from caregiver burnout is physically, emotionally, or mentally exhausted, resulting in anxiety, depression, high levels of stress, or attitude changes.
So how do you prevent or alleviate caregiver burnout? By taking the time to care for yourself — so you can give your family member or loved one the care that they need.
Signs of caregiver burnout
The signs of caregiver burnout vary by person, but you should watch for the following symptoms or changes.
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feelings of anxiety or hopelessness
- Irritability or anger
- Unexpected weight gain or loss
- Frequent physical pain or illness
- Excessive smoking, drinking, or eating
- Lack of interest in hobbies
- Lapses in personal care and hygiene
- Anger or resentment toward the individual you are caring for
- Withdrawal from other relationships
As you can see, the symptoms of caregiver burnout look a lot like those of anxiety and/or depression. That’s because caregiver burnout is, essentially, anxiety or depression that is brought on by a specific set of circumstances: putting yourself on the backburner to focus solely on the monumental task of taking complete care of another individual.
How to prevent or alleviate caregiver burnout
Now that you know what causes burnout, let’s look at how to prevent or recover from it.
Talk to someone — Find a trusted friend, family member, therapist, or caregiver support group that you can be open and honest with when you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed by your role. Just sharing your feelings can be immensely helpful and give you more insight into your state of mind.
Establish boundaries and expectations — Many caregivers feel pressured (by family members, the patient, or even themselves) to provide more help than they are realistically capable of. So set some time and workload boundaries that both you and others must respect. This might mean that you have to delegate some tasks or others or look for outside help, but it will ensure that you do not get overwhelmed by your role as more and more demands are piled on you.
Educate yourself — If the person you are caring for has a debilitating disease or injury, especially if it will progress, take some time to research and learn about the specific challenges they may face, the expected outcomes and timelines, and the best ways to care for them. You’ll likely find some helpful tips that can make both of your lives easier. In addition, you’ll also know what to expect in the future, which can help you determine when you will no longer be able to provide the level of care that they need.
Enlist outside help — There are many different resources out there that can help lighten your load. Local community or senior centers often have day programs that provide care, activities, and entertainment, so you can have a break. You can also arrange a short stay at a nursing home or assisted living facility if you need extended time away. For more regular, permanent assistance, you can enlist the help of a professional at-home caregiver.
Practice regular self-care — There is a reason why this is last on the list, even though it is, by far, the most important. If you are already feeling overwhelmed by the physical, mental, and emotional demands of caregiving, it will be incredibly difficult to break away and take time for yourself. You may even feel guilty for doing so. That’s where the previous steps come in. By communicating, setting boundaries, and getting help from outside resources, you can carve out the time you need to care for yourself.
If you are experiencing caregiver burnout, or you want to prevent it, Right Hand Senior Care would love to partner with you and provide at-home care services for your loved one. We will work with you to determine your needs and create a custom plan that works for both you and your family.
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