Preventing Caregiver BurnoutFebruary 1, 2023
More and more adults across the United States provide unpaid care to a loved one each year. This number is only bound to increase as the baby boomer generation hits retirement. You may not currently act as a caregiver for an elderly loved one, but the chances are high that you will at some point in the future.
With all the responsibilities that come from providing support to an elderly loved one, burnout is a common feeling experienced by most caregivers. Many push through these feelings, thinking this will help them perform their necessary tasks. This, however, leads to deeper problems that can impact your care. So, instead of pushing through it, try working towards preventing caregiver burnout instead.
What is caregiver burnout?
Caregiver burnout is defined as a state of mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion. It is often recognized in signs like withdrawal from friends and family, loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed, changes in weight, sleep patterns, and feelings of hopelessness or irritation.
Burnout can affect all types of caregivers—whether they are family caregivers who have been working just a few months or professional caregivers who have worked for decades. Many may recognize the signs of caregiver burnout as signs of depression, and while it is possible to experience both, burnout can be resolved by time away from the activities that cause you stress.
What causes burnout?
Between one’s career, one’s personal life, and one’s caregiving responsibilities, it’s all too easy to let one’s own needs fall to the wayside. Ignoring one’s emotional and physical health, however, is one of the primary causes of burnout. It’s crucial that you take the time to address these needs for even just 10 minutes every day.
In addition to the above concern, other factors can cause burnout. These include:
- Unrealistic expectations. Caring for a loved one isn’t always positive. Expecting that, especially when the care recipient suffers from a progressive illness, can cause undue stress.
- Lack of control. Similar to the above point, a caregiver can’t always expect things to go their way. Their loved one’s condition, finances, and resources can all impact the care one can provide.
- Role confusion. It can be difficult to switch from one’s role as child, spouse, or friend into a caregiver.
How to prevent caregiver burnout
Burnout impacts every aspect of your life—including the care you provide. This can have a negative effect on both your loved one’s life and your own. So, it is important to take preventative measures to avoid burnout before the symptoms arise.
Even when you’ve weighed out your options and made the decision to provide care to the person you’re caring for, it can still be difficult to accept this new role. You may spend a great deal of time ruminating on what you’ve had to give up, and the hardships that are to come.
Try not to spend too much time focused on this. Instead, accept and embrace your caregiving role. Look at the positives that come with providing care to your family, such as helping them live comfortably and confidently at home.
Don’t let your new role take over your life
With this new responsibility added to your existing duties, it is easy to let this new role consume your life. Try not to fall into this trap. Giving up your hobbies for care can lead to feelings of depression, hopelessness, and caregiver stress. Instead, carve time out of your work to do what it is you enjoy.
Even just spending fifteen minutes before bed on your favorite activities will make a world of difference. If you need more time—for instance, to exercise or go to the gym—ask someone to take over for a few hours.
Celebrate the little things
Sometimes, when things are difficult, recognizing all the hard work you do seems impossible. Make a point of celebrating all the incredible work you do by writing down your achievements. Periodically reward yourself for your efforts, whether it’s something small like a weekly cup of coffee, or something bigger less often.
Don’t forget to practice good health habits
No matter what it is you struggle with, doctors recommend the same thing time and time again: a quality diet, regular exercise, and solid sleep. Each of these aspects of living is crucial to every part of your health.
Practicing good health habits will boost your energy levels and your overall mood. This will allow you to give your clients the best care possible, as well as be more present in other regards of your life.
Find a caregiver support group
Sharing your thoughts and feelings about caregiving is great for your mental health. However, you may not want to share these intimate details with certain family and friends who don’t quite understand.
Thankfully, there are several caregiver support groups for you to choose from. At these meetings, you can discuss the trials and tribulations with individuals who truly understand what you are going through. This fosters a sense of community, which is incredibly valuable to your overall mental health. If you are curious about a caregiver support group, there are plenty of local resources you can use.
If you’re experiencing burnout, consider a respite caregiver
Don’t let burnout get the best of you. If you need a break for more than a few hours, consider the help of a respite caregiver. These professionals are trained in all the ins and outs of home caregiving, so you don’t have to worry about whether or not your family member’s needs are taken care of. Your loved one will be in good hands.
To learn more about respite care, give us a call at (773) 274-9262. We would be happy to help.
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