Although a caregiver is always worried about caring for someone else, it is also imperative that they care for themselves. Caregivers who are feeling fatigued and hopeless the majority of the time may be suffering from caregiver burnout. A few characteristics of caregiver burnout include:
- Isolation from others; withdrawal from friends, family and other loved ones
- Loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyable
- Feelings of irritability, depression and hopelessness
- Mental and physical exhaustion
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in sleep patterns including restlessness
Caregiver burnout can best be summarized as a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude — from positive and caring to negative and on edge. Burnout can occur when caregivers don’t make time for “self care” or if they try to handle more than they are either physically or financially able. Many caregivers also feel guilty when they spend time on themselves rather than on caring for their ill or elderly loved ones. Caregiver burnout is very common but it can also be avoided by increasing your awareness of the following:
Taking Time For Yourself
No one can be ‘on’ 24/7 – you have to take time for yourself in order to effectively care for your loved one. Taking time for yourself can be as simple as meeting up with a friend for coffee, treating yourself to a nice dinner or simply relaxing away from the loved one you are caring for in an effort to relax and decompress. Setting aside time for self-care will allow you to be a better caregiver and will help to reduce your stress levels.
Understand Your Limits
If you are stressed out and unable to care for yourself, how will you be able to care for your loved one effectively? This relates to to previous concept of taking time for yourself. Without boundaries, you won’t be able to sustain yourself and this could lead to feelings of being overwhelmed or overburdened. Remember that saying “no” once in a while is not a bad thing – “No, I can’t attend your daughter’s play, I need some time for myself” or “No, I can’t take Mom to all of her medical appointments. It would be helpful if you could share this responsibility.” Simply saying “no” can help you to set boundaries with the other important people in your life in an effort to stave off the mental and physical exhaustion that comes from taking on more than you can reasonably manage.
Recognize The Signs
Recognizing the signs of burnout is the first step in avoiding it. Once you recognize the signs you can reevaluate your situation and move forward in a way offers you balance in your life. Don’t forget to ask yourself, “how do I feel?” Are you still doing the things that brought joy into your life? Do you often feel overwhelmed or emotional when you think about your caregiving responsibility? If you are no longer finding joy in your life and are beginning to view caregiving as a burden, you may be struggling with the stress of being a caregiver and are likely in need or a positive change.
Make Sure You Take A Step Back
Taking a step back every so often can offer you an outside perspective on your situation and will allow you to reevaluate your caregiver role. Avoiding caregiver guilt or unnecessary stress is key in avoiding burnout. Keep in mind that your own emotional state and physical wellness is a priority. It’s important to remember that you will not be able to care for your loved one if you are not taking good care of yourself.
Find A Support Group
No matter how caring others are about your situation, no one is going to understand your situation quite as well as another caregiver. Regardless of the circumstances, there is a support group available to offer you support and to help guide you along the way. Even if you are physically isolated, there are many online communities where you can share ideas, vent frustrations and ask for advice from other caregivers and experts in the area of elder care. The Eldercare Locator, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging, is also a great resource for older adults and their families.
Transitioning From The Caregiver Role
If you decide it’s time to transition from your caregiver role, know that there are many assisted living and memory care facilities available to provide personalized care for your loved one within a warm and caring environment. Carlton Senior Living‘s assisted living communities offer residents a blend of services, social activity, and opportunities for personal growth, as well as nurturing and individualized personal care while our memory care residents are able to enjoy a person-centered approach to care which values all people as unique, recognizes individual viewpoints, and honors the connection among us all. Family members caring for loved ones have found that when the stress of daily care is removed, so is the tension and that loving relationships can be re-established and can flourish.