Recognizing Caregiver Burnout and How to Avoid It

Caring for a child with autism, Down syndrome, or other special needs; caring for an aging relative who is experiencing dementia; caring for a friend or family member who has a long post-surgical recovery or is undergoing cancer treatment… These are only a few of the ways you could find yourself becoming a caregiver.

If you care for someone else, whether full time, part time or any time, you know that it can be draining. The tendency we have to put that other person first in our priorities isn’t a bad thing. But ignoring your own needs will eventually have only one result: caregiver burnout.

What is caregiver burnout?

Caregiver burnout is quite simply the point where you, as a caregiver, have reached the end of your patience or ability to care. You are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted all the time, no longer participate in activities that give you pleasure and in general feel stretched too thin. This can result in negative feelings at best and a complete withdrawal from caring for anyone or anything, at worst.

Caregivers can end up with burnout for many reasons and none of those reasons is that they don’t love their charge enough! But circumstances and the day to day reality of the role of caregiver can take its toll on a person. Particularly if you ended up in the role unexpectedly or suddenly, the change to your life can be difficult to manage, including the guilt you might feel for being upset over the loss of the life you were previously living. Some other reasons that caregivers can get burnout:

Expectations — you assume that your aid is helping that person but of course many cannot express their appreciation, either due to the nature of their disability or illness or because they are simply unaware of it.

Inability to control the situation — even with all the money in the world, it can be quite difficult to manage 24/7 care for someone else, or even part time care.

Self-imposed demands — many caregivers feel they are the ONLY ones who can offer the care that they are offering, either because they are unwilling to burden others or because they feel most suited to the role.

These can all lead to caregiver burnout, and it can happen a lot more quickly than you might think!

What are the signs of caregiver burnout?

Overwhelming fatigue and an overall lack of energy.

Problems sleeping due stress.

Weight gain or loss because of a major change in eating habits.

No longer paying attention to your own physical and emotional needs.

No longer participating in activities you used to enjoy.

Withdrawing from other people you normally associate with.

Depression, anxiety, irritability and moodiness, either with the person you are caring for or with others..

Headaches and other physical manifestations of the stress and strain.

How can you prevent caregiver burnout?

The first and best way to prevent caregiver burnout is to know the signs and get some help LONG before you reach that point. Depending on what your role is as caregiver, you could ask for friends or family to help, but if you are really going it alone, you need to look for professional respite care. With a professional in place, you can actually relax and know that your loved one is in good hands for a few hours or even a few days. You can then take the time you need to get out of the house and do something just for you, whether that’s seeing a movie, meeting friends for a drink or just getting a manicure. Whatever works to help you destress and see the positive of life around you.

In addition to getting some respite care help, there are other things you can do to minimize the possibility of being affected by caregiver burnout:

Make caring for yourself as much a priority as caring for your loved one. That means eating well, getting enough rest and finding moments in your day to take five minutes. If mediation works for you, try it! Yoga? Go for it! A walk around the neighborhood? Might be just the ticket, first thing in the morning, to get your motivation going for the day ahead.

Put together a list of your daily and weekly activities and tasks and prioritize. Can you offload some to someone else? Can you hire someone to do things you dislike, like cleaning the house? If you can make your day even a little bit easier, you will find joy in that!

Find support, whether that’s a support group for caregivers in similar situations, or just a group of old friends who can work around your schedule, the relief that comes from being able to talk about anything other than caregiving, or to talk through your difficulties with caregiving, is priceless.

What can you do if someone you know is experiencing caregiver burnout?

Help them. Purely and simply help them and not by offering trite sentiments like ‘let me know if you need a hand.’ Instead, show up and offer to do the dishes, or walk the dog or whatever you can do to make that person’s day a little bit easier.

If you recognize yourself in these words or know someone who has symptoms of caregiver burnout, consider respite care for your loved one. It’s not selfish; it’s essential!

If you or an aging loved-one are considering in-home respite or senior care in Atlanta, please call the compassionate, caring staff at Mothers Helping Hands Home Care. Call Today! M-F 8am to 8pm Call (678) 770-2313 We're Also Available 24/7: (678) 661-7362 .

We proudly serve 10 counties in the state of Georgia: Gwinnett, Dekalb, Walton, Rockdale, Cobb, Newton, Fayette, Fulton, Forsyth and Clayton.

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