What is caregiving burnout?
Sandy has been taking care of her mother, by herself, for months, when one day she found herself weeping for no reason while washing the dishes. If what you’re experiencing sounds similar, you are not alone. Caregiving for a loved one can be a rewarding experience but the nature of caregiving makes burnout a constant danger. Caregiving burnout is caused by ignoring your personal needs and doing more than you can handle physically, mentally, and financially. If you do not get the necessary help you need when feeling burnout, it can lead to a toll on your mental and physical health as well as your relationships. As a family caregiver, it is just as important to take care of their own needs as well as their loved ones, otherwise, it can result in serious consequences such as depression and anxiety.
The signs and symptoms of caregiving burnout
Common signs of caregiver burnout:
- Your life revolves around caregiving but it does not satisfy you.
- You feel constantly exhausted even after resting.
- You neglect your own needs due to not caring or being too busy.
- You don’t have as much energy as you used to.
- You have trouble relaxing
- You find it difficult to ask for or accept help.
- You get increasingly impatient and irritated with the person you’re caring for.
- You feel helpless and hopeless.
If you’re experiencing these signs of caregiver burnout, it not only affects you but also the loved one you’re caring for. In the scenario above, Sandy’s mother, after watching Sandy get increasingly overwhelmed and discouraged, has become reluctant to accept Sandy’s help, upsetting both Sandy and her mother.
According to Cleveland Clinic, those with caregiver burnout face symptoms similar to those who experience stress and depression:
- Withdrawal from relationships with friends, family, and loved ones
- Changes in appetite, weight, or both.
- Changes in sleep patterns.
- Getting sick more often.
- Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring.
- Emotional and physical fatigue.
- Loss of energy and interest in activities previously enjoyed.
- Feeling down, easily irritated, and helpless
How to prevent burnout
Follow these tips to help you cope and prevent burnout so you can live a healthy, balanced life while taking care of a loved one.
1. Empower and take care of yourself
Thrive Global states you can maintain your mental and physical health through changing your mindset and focusing on your wellbeing.
- Focus on the things you can control. Instead of stressing out over things you can’t manage, focus on what you can control such as how you can react to these problems. What helped Sandy better react when facing caregiver burnout was altering her negative thoughts into positive ones. For example, she was frustrated that she couldn’t find her mother’s passport but to calm herself, she remembered how she was able to successfully organize her mother’s room. She may have not been able to find this important documentation, but she reminded herself that she at least knows where everything else is thanks to her strong organizational skills.
- Don’t let caregiving take over your life. It is easier to handle a difficult situation when there are other positive aspects of your life. Invest in relationships and activities that give you meaning in your life, so you don’t feel that caregiving is taking over your entire existence.
Celebrate the small victories. Remember that while you can’t control certain things when caring for a loved one, all your efforts matter and are appreciated. For example, installing something for your loved one in the home is something worth celebrating. No matter how little an action you take may seem, acknowledge that you did something for your loved one, helping to improve their life or situation, no matter how incrementally..
- Exercise. Not only does exercise act as a stress reliever and mood enhancer, but doing it regularly will boost your energy and help with your fatigue. Doing simple exercises such as taking a jog or walk around your neighborhood can help you stay active and maintain your energy.
- Practice better sleeping and eating habits. The amount of sleep and what you put in your body affect your energy levels. Make sure to get enough sleep and to eat a good balance of fruits, vegetables, and protein so you have steady energy.
- Learn how to relax. Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation so you can clear your mind and destress. Even something as simple as doing a breathing exercise for a few minutes can help you feel more centered and boost your mood. Here are some free apps that help with mindfulness and relaxation:
2. Give yourself a break
According to the Help Guide, carving out time to relax and focus on yourself is important as a caregiver. Through socializing and engaging in activities for personal enjoyment, you give yourself the chance to destress and recharge.
- Pamper yourself. Indulging in yourself can go a long way in boosting your spirits. Whether it be taking a long bath or buying yourself a gift, it allows you to prioritize yourself and fulfill your personal needs.
- Get out of the house. Seek out others to help so you can spend time outside of the house. Activities outside the home such as running errands or going for a hike can help you get the fresh air you need to recharge.
- Prioritize activities you enjoy. Make regular time for activities and hobbies that bring you happiness.
- Maintain your relationships. Your friendships and other personal relationships are important to keep you positive. Getting a coffee and catching up with an old friend can go a long way. Having people who can support you as well as distract you from any hardships is important to destressing and maintaining your happiness.
3. Reach out for help
Taking care of all the caregiving responsibilities and doing it alone can put a strain on your mental and physical health, which is a recipe for caregiver burnout. Make sure you have people who you can confide in as well as assist you.
- Speak up. People won’t know exactly what you’re feeling unless you start a dialogue. Speaking up about any concerns or issues you’re facing is the first step to making sure you’re not alone in solving the problem.
- Spread the responsibility. The more family members involved in caregiving, the better. Dividing tasks between family members allows to lighten the load and prevent burnout on an individual.
- Say yes to help. It can be hard to accept help but allow those to feel good supporting you. It’s the opportunity for you to not have to face the pressure and responsibility of doing it all alone.
Here is a list of resources by Cleveland Clinic that you can reach out to for help and further assistance when experiencing caregiver burnout:
- Caregiver support services: These include resources such as support groups that give caregivers the safe space to recharge, express their feelings, meet others in similar situations, as well as find more information and additional assistance.
- National organizations: You can find national organizations and local agencies that are dedicated to serving people of particular illnesses by looking in a phone directory or searching online. Their services include providing specific information and references for further assistance such as respite care and support groups.
- Adult daycare: Seniors can socialize and participate in activities as well as receive medical attention and additional services through these programs.
- Home health services: These agencies can provide short-term home health aides and nurses if your loved one is ill. Some as well offer respite care services.
- Nursing homes & assisted living facilities: Short-term stays are offered at some of these institutions to give caregivers a break from their caregiving responsibilities.
- Private care aides: These are professionals who specialize in analyzing current needs, and provide coordinating care and services for your situation.
1 +1 Cares is a referral agency that works for clients and caregivers. We match caregivers with clients and inform them of your requirements. We work for you so you and your loved one can have a safe, enjoyable caregiving experience.