Managing medicines, prepping for meals, dressing, bathing, making decisions – providing care to someone is never easy. Whether the person is your spouse, aging parent, friend, child, or extended family member dealing with an illness, accident, or disability, the stress of caregiving can get overwhelming quickly and affect your regular functioning.
Most caregivers are dedicated to providing care for their loved ones, even if it comes with neglecting themselves. But even if you are doing your best, being someone’s support system daily is a tough job, and it’s bound to wear you down eventually.
Slowly you might start feeling drained. The exhaustion and stress can soon pile up to a stage of ultimate hopelessness and social withdrawal, deemed as caregiver burnout.
With as many as 53 million (yes, million) unpaid family caregivers in America, as per the National Alliance for Caregiving, the issue of caregiver burnout is extremely common and severe. It can affect the caregiver’s mental and physical health, thereby affecting their ability to provide care or look after themselves.
This is precisely why it is essential to learn what caregiver burnout is, identify its signs, and seek timely help and support strategies whenever required. In this post, we will dive deeper into caregiver burnout to help you understand and manage it better. Let’s get started.
What Is Caregiver Burnout?
At its core, caregiver burnout is the mental, physical, and emotional stress and exhaustion arising from a person’s caregiving duties. While caregiving is rewarding and important, it is undoubtedly highly demanding.
Caring for a loved one in a personal capacity is different from working as a doctor or a nurse. This is because you have a personal connection with the care recipient that does not allow you to ‘clock out’ at the end of the day.
Signs And Symptoms
Caregiver Burnout is marked by a shift in a person’s thoughts and emotions. It’s basically a change in mindset where a person might feel that they are not ready to face their caregiving duties or are not good enough at providing care.
Burnout can affect people differently, but there are a standard set of symptoms. These include the following:
- feeling hopeless,
- mental and physical exhaustion,
- being irritated or having frequent mood swings,
- sleep disturbances,
- social withdrawal,
- appetite changes,
- lack of interest in things and activities you enjoyed before,
- health issues, and
- feelings of resentment toward the care recipient.
Causes Of Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver burnout is steeply on the rise in family caregivers. As per a study published in The Gerontologist, caregivers experienced even higher anxiety, stress levels, and sleep issues during the pandemic. Another report from the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), found that around two-thirds of caregivers reported their responsibilities as moderately or highly stressful.
Caregiver burnout is an amalgamation of multiple factors. These include personal circumstances and community issues like unequal access to professional health services in minority communities. However, a few reasons are common across the spectrum of people dealing with the condition. These include the following:
1. Demanding Schedule And Responsibilities
According to the NAC report, a regular family caregiver provides around 24 hours of care weekly. These duties are in addition to their other roles as a parent, spouses, friends, and working professionals. As a result, they might feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities, leading to emotional and physical exhaustion.
2. Neglecting Personal Needs
While invested in their caregiving role, many people tend to forget their personal needs. They start disregarding their mental and physical health needs, which might lead to burnout eventually.
How To Cope?
Now that it’s clear that caregiver burnout is a tough and challenging situation, let’s dive into how you can actually cope with it.
1. Understand what you are getting into.
When you take up a caregiver’s role, knowing and understanding what’s in store for you is important. So read more about your loved ones’ condition. This will help you manage your tasks properly and make sense of the situation. This way, you can also understand what you can and cannot handle.
2. Take frequent breaks and look for support.
Since you can’t go on a three-week vacation while being a caregiver, it is important to take regular breaks. Ask for help whenever you want from other friends and family members. Take a few minutes out for yourself and do something that you like.
3. Look for professional help.
Caregiver burnout is tough, and navigating the situation alone can be tricky. Therefore, actively seek professional help. If you feel you can’t be away from your home for long, online therapy platforms, give you access to professional services right at your home.
Caregiver burnout is the mental and physical exhaustion arising from a person’s caregiving duties. It can lead to emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms like mood swings, social withdrawal, sleep problems, appetite changes, and more. Caregivers can learn to deal with burnout using external help, therapy services, frequent breaks, and self-care.
Apart from burnout, caregivers are also prone to empathy fatigue. To learn more about it, click here.
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