Caregiver Burnout and How to Avoid It
Caregivers are often the victims of what is commonly called ‘caregiver burnout”. The symptoms are very similar to the symptoms for stress and depression, including:
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Feeing blue and irritable
- Experiencing a change in your appetite or weight
- Sleep problems
- Get sick more often
How Can I Avoid Caregiver Burnout?
- Take steps to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed:
- Confide in someone you trust.Talk to a friend, coworker, or neighbor about your feelings and frustrations.
- Set realistic goals for yourself. Accept that you may need help with caregiving, and turn to others for help with some tasks.
- Don’t forget about yourself.Though you’re busy caring for someone else, set aside time for your own needs, even if it’s just an hour or two. Keep in mind that taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.
- Take advantage of respite care services.It can give you a temporary break. This can range from a few hours of in-home care for your loved one to a short stay in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
- Know your limits. Do a “reality-check” of your personal situation. Recognize and accept your potential for burnout.
- Educate yourself.The more you know about the illness of your loved one, the better able you’ll be to take care of him.
- Take a new approach.Remember to lighten up and look for the positive side of things. Use humor to help deal with everyday stress.
- Stay healthy.Make sure you eat right and get plenty of exercise and sleep.
- Accept your feelings.It’s normal to sometimes get frustrated or angry about your responsibilities. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or a bad caregiver.
Where Can I Turn for Help?
If you’re a caregiver and you’re stressed, talk to your doctor or another health professional. Most therapists, social workers, and clergy are trained to counsel people who are dealing with a wide range of physical and emotional issues. Anxiety, depression, and other problems can be treated. If you want to avoid burnout, check out some of these resources that can help you with caregiving:
- Home health services: These agencies provide home health aides and nurses for short-term care if your loved one is ill. Some agencies provide short-term respite care as well.
- Adult day care: These programs offer a place for seniors to socialize, enjoy a variety of activities, and get medical care and other services.
- Nursing homes or assisted living facilities: They sometimes offer short-term respite stays to give you a break from your caregiving duties.
- Caregiver support services: These are support groups and other programs that can help you recharge your batteries, manage stress, meet others who are facing similar situations, and help you find more information and locate other resources.
- Agency on Aging: Contact your local agency for a nearby chapter of the AARP to learn about services in your area such as adult day care services, caregiver support groups, and respite care.