If you are a family caregiver caring for a relative with dementia, a physical disability, or other condition, your role can feel like a full-time job. Without help, you may fall into a cycle of gerbil wheel caregiving or experience caregiver burnout.
Burnout happens as your duties take a toll on your wellbeing. Over time, you become exhausted, disinterested, and unable to manage your roles. You may mistakingly make harmful or life-threatening errors, such as mishandling medication. Or, it can increase the risk of developing detrimental habits like substance abuse.
Because caregiver burnout affects you and those you care for, it’s crucial that you monitor signs and actively work to minimize these effects before they become unmanageable.
Signs And Risk Factors Of Caregiver Burnout
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there at 10 signs of caregiver burnout:
- Resentment or anger toward 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 also a helpful resource. It can help you determine just how much your responsibilities may be affecting you.
In addition to knowing the signs of caregiver burnout, you should also learn which risk factors increase the chances of it.
Caregiver stress is more likely to impact:
- 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.
Of course, all of this dramatically affects your physical and mental health. Studies have found that:
- 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, causing 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.
- Share your feelings and experiences — good and bad ones — with a trusted friend, colleague, or neighbor.
- Avoid spending time with negative people and focus on cultivating positive relationships with those who uplift your spirits and outlook.
- Be honest with yourself about your loved one’s condition. This is particularly important 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.
- Support your physical health by maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, and getting enough sleep.
- Seek professional help. Consider hiring a therapist or talking to a social worker or clergy member to discuss your physical and emotional situation and find ways to cope.
- 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, both good and bad. In the same vein, don’t fixate on feelings such as guilt, frustration, or anger. These are normal — you are not a bad person for feeling them.
- 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. Recognizing that you can’t do everything and setting boundaries with yourself and others are both good. After you acknowledge your limits, your next move should be enlisting others to help with your responsibilities.
Every family is different, so not every caregiver can turn to their relatives for help. In that case, you may need support from outside organizations such as:
- The federal government’s Eldercare Locator. This tool can connect you to 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 Community Resource Finder from the AARP and Alzheimer’s Association. This resource offers a variety of local resources, from transportation assistance to elder law attorneys.
- The Family Care Navigator from The Family Caregiver Alliance. This database 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 local organizations that offer 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.