• Carrie Klaege

Caregiver Burnout! Signs and Coping Tips

Being a full-time caregiver for your loved one can be exhausting and difficult. Recognizing the signs of burnout can help you to move forward safely for both yourself and your loved one.

Signs of Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver burnout is a state of exhaustion that may result in a change of attitude toward the care recipient, without you even recognizing it. Although caring for a loved one can be a great privilege, it is also demanding and requires significant emotional and physical strength. Burnout can occur when caregivers don't get the help they need, or if they try to do more than they are able, physically, mentally, or financially.

Caregivers are often so busy caring for others that they tend to neglect their own needs. Caregiver overload can often lead to fatigue, hopelessness, and ultimately burnout.

Other factors that can lead to burnout include:

* Role Confusion. When acting as a caregiver, it can be difficult to continue in the role of spouse, lover, child, friend, or other close relationship.

* Unrealistic expectations. Many caregivers expect their involvement to have a positive impact on the health and happiness of the patient. This may be unrealistic for patients suffering from progressive and chronic diseases, like Parkinson's or Alzheimer's.

* Lack of Control. Frustration at the lack of money, resources, and personal skills to effectively plan, manage, and organize their loved one's care.

* Unreasonable demands. It is not uncommon for caregivers to place unreasonable demands on themselves. In part this is because they see providing care as their exclusive responsibility. Family members (siblings, adult children, and sometimes the care recipient themselves) can place unreasonable demands on the caregiver due to their own grief and guilt at not being present or able to provide care.

*Other factors. Many caregivers cannot recognize when they are suffering burnout and eventually get to the point where they cannot function effectively. They may even become sick themselves.

Common signs of burnout include:

* Lack of energy, increased fatigue * Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed

* Withdrawal from family and friends * Sleeping too little or too much

* Feeling blue, irritated, hopeless * Changes in appetite, weight, or both

* Neglecting one's own needs * Growing impatient or irritable with loved ones

* Worrying excessively about the future * Getting sick more often

* Emotional or physical exhaustion * Challenges coping with everyday tasks or problems

* Headaches, stomach aches, and * Feelings of wanting to harm yourself or the person

other physical signs of stress for whom you are caring

Caregivers are more likely to experience burnout if they are female, live with the person they are caring for, are socially isolated, already deal with depression, face financial difficulties, spend more of their hours caregiving, and don't have much choice but to be the caregiver.

Tips for Coping with Caregiver Burnout

Burnout doesn't have to be a permanent condition. These tips can help to prevent and cope with burnout in the primary caregiver.

1. Ask for and Accept Help. Hire a service (like Southern Arizona Home Care) to provide a few hours of respite care. Use this time to rest, get your hair done, spend time with friends. If finances will not allow for hiring a service, ask friends or family to assist with respite. Others may desire to be more helpful with caregiving tasks and are unsure how to offer assistance.

2. Set Realistic Goals. Understand that not everything needs to be done NOW. Consider saying "no" to any extra requests or demands that are necessary right now.

3. Connect with Others. Find a support group, talk to friends and family members regularly, and connect with others who can listen and understand. (http://azcaregiver.org/)

4. Avoid Common Causes of Burnout. Caregiving for too many hours, not having space to process emotions, lack of sleep, and other issues are common causes of burnout. Avoid these to recover and prevent further exhaustion.

5. Consider Adult Day Programs. Social and health-related day programs can offer caregivers with a much needed break to run errands, relax, or focus on other tasks. It's okay to get some respite. Caregivers should remember that they can provide better care to their loved ones after they feel revived. (https://posadalife.org/community-services/casa-community-services/adult-day-services/)

5. Make Time for Yourself. Make time for rebuilding and recharging - consider scheduling time for the gym, naps, doctor appointments, and self-care activities.

There are many options for caregiving. Caregivers should not feel they are the only ones who can help their loved ones because the pressure will cause or exacerbate burnout. Involve other loved ones in caregiving (when possible), find adult day services, or consider the assistance of a private aide. If you are in need of help navigating these options for yourself, please call us today for a free assessment of resources available to you in our area. Southern Arizona Home Care, 520-261-8716.

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