If you are a family caregiver caring for a relative with dementia, a physical disability, or a similar condition, you know that as your responsibilities can become overwhelming and lead to caregiver burnout.
As your duties take a toll on your wellbeing, you become exhausted, disinterested, and incapable of managing your role. Burnout can lead to potentially harmful or life-threatening errors, like mishandling medication or developing detrimental habits like substance abuse.
For these reasons and many others, it’s crucial that you monitor signs that you may be on the path to caregiver burnout and actively try to ease it before it becomes unmanageable.
Signs And Risk Factors Of Caregiver Burnout
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there at 10 signs of caregiver burnout:
- Resentment or anger for your loved one
- Denial about your relative’s condition or illness
- Exhaustion that makes routine tasks difficult
- Health issues like getting sick more than usual
- Difficulty focusing to the point that routine tasks become a struggle or you become forgetful
- Irritability and mood swings
- Social withdrawal
The American Medical Association’s self-assessment for caregivers is a helpful resource to determine the severity that your responsibilities may be affecting you.
In addition to knowing the signs of caregiver burnout, it’s also important that you learn the risk factors to assess the likelihood of it happening to you.
- Those without a formal education
- Those residing with the loved one they care for
- Socially isolated individuals
- Those with depression
- Lower-income earners
- Those who spend more time in their caregiving role each week
- Those with poor problem solving and coping skills
- Individuals who do not have a choice in their role
The Effects Of Caregiver Burnout
Caregiving requires a considerable amount of time, energy, and emotions. Additionally, it can wear on your patience and leave your feeling exhausted, frustrated, and guilty.
- 36% of family members caring for a loved one describe their role as highly stressful.
- In the last five years, the number of caregivers with excellent or very good health declined from 48% to 41%.
- In 2018, insurance company Genworth documented depression, mood swings, and resentment in 4 in 10 caregivers.
- Caregivers between 55 and 75 have 23% higher stress hormone levels, which can cause high blood pressure. They also had a 15% lower immune response, leaving them susceptible to sickness and infection.
Tips To Avoid Caregiver Burnout
Sometimes, caregiver burnout is unavoidable. But there are ways to avoid or even alleviate it. Here are some tips to try before feelings of burnout settle in.
First, share your feelings and experiences — good and bad ones — with a trusted friend, colleague, or neighbor.
In the same vein, avoid spending time with negative people and focus on cultivating positive relationships with those who uplift your spirits and your outlook.
Be honest with yourself about your loved one’s condition, particularly if they suffer from a progressive illness like Alzheimer’s. Likewise, recognize that your loved one may need more intensive care than what you can offer and consider hiring a caregiver.
Remember your own needs and practice self-care. Making time for yourself is difficult, but even an hour can make a difference.
Also, seek out professional services, such as a therapist, social worker, or clergy member, to discuss your physical and emotional situation and find ways to cope.
Equally important is caring for your physical body by eating a healthy diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
Furthermore, create a routine and stay with it. A routine built around the things you do every day can give you a sense of feeling more in control of your life. It can also benefit your loved one — especially if they have dementia — by helping them know what to anticipate.
Acknowledge how you feel, good and bad, and don’t feel guilty about emotions like frustration or anger. These are normal and do not make you a bad person.
Lastly, find a support group for other caregivers to discuss your experiences and feelings. Sharing with others who relate to your situation is cathartic and will help you with stress management, finding resources, and lowering negative feelings.
Resources For Caregivers
If you suffer from caregiver burnout, there are many resources available. It’s good to accept your limits and recognize that you can’t do it all. When that happens, enlisting others to help with your responsibilities is the responsible decision.
The federal government’s Eldercare Locator can put you in contact with your community’s Area Agency on Aging, which can help you find more support systems in your area to help you manage your role as a caregiver.
You can also contact the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116.
The AARP and Alzheimer’s Association developed the Community Resource Finder, which offers a variety of local resources like transportation assistance to elder law attorneys.
Additionally, the Family Care Navigator from The Family Caregiver Alliance can also help you find nearby services and programs.
Over half of caregivers work full time, which can make juggling your caregiving duties, personal life, and professional responsibilities even harder.
When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, the Family and Medical Leave Act may help. This program mandates that large companies provide up to three months of unpaid leave for employees caring for a loved one.
Look for respite care options in your area so you can take some time for yourself. Respite care lets caregivers step away from their roles, whether it’s for an afternoon or a brief stay at an assisted living or nursing facility.
Lastly, find a local organization that offers in-person and virtual support groups for caregivers.
Meetcaregivers Can Help
Caregiving has many benefits, but things aren’t always easy. If you’ve tried to manage things on your own but still struggle with negative emotions and fatigue, Meetcaregivers can help.
Don’t let caregiver burnout disrupt your life. If you need a break, whether for a day, a week, or longer, consider hiring a qualified caregiver.
Meetcaregivers will ensure your loved one receives the best possible care while you rest and recharge.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, so contact us online or call 1-888-541-1136.
Visit the Blog for more information and resources for caregivers, family members, and seniors.
- AARP. “How to Avoid Caregiver Burnout and Manage Stress.” AARP, 14 May 2020, www.aarp.org/caregiving/life-balance/info-2019/caregiver-stress-burnout.html.
- “Caregiver Burnout Prevention.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9225-caregiver-burnout/prevention.
- “Caregiver Burnout Symptoms Slideshow: Handling Dementia, Chores, Finding Help.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/caregiver-17/slideshow-avoid-caregiver-burnout.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Practical Solutions for Caregiver Stress.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 19 Mar. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/caregiver-stress/art-20044784.