5 Warning Signs of Caregiver Burnout
We all feel stressed from time to time. In fact, small amounts of stress are beneficial as they may help us to stay alert and focused. Long or intense periods of stress, however, can be extremely hard on your physical and mental health.
If you’re a caregiver, as the disease progresses, the needs of the care recipient increase and the isolation of the caregiver can intensify. Feelings of loneliness, depression, and sadness are common. There are steps we can take to reduce these damaging side effects but before we get into those, let's get a few things straight.
You are doing a wonderful thing in caring for your loved one!
It’s a very difficult task that can leave you mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted. Your hard work does not come with accolades or often, even acknowledgment from others. You cannot nurse your loved one back to health any more than you can re-educate them or re-train a broken brain.
Your care recipient may forget all the wonderful things you have just completed on their behalf and then go so far as to accuse you of stealing from them. I spoke to one dear caregiver who had to endure the humiliation of a police inquiry initiated by her husband of 40+ years who no longer recognized her and mistook her for a burglar.
The key is to recognize when you are approaching exhaustion and learn to take care of yourself before it gets severe. Doing so is necessary to prevent “Caregiver Burnout.”
WebMD describes Caregiver Burnout 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 unconcerned.
Caregiver burnout is not taken lightly by psychologists—who define it as “a debilitating psychological condition brought about by unrelieved stress”—and should not be taken lightly by you. By the time most caregivers suspect signs of burnout, they’re already suffering a myriad of ailments.
So what are 5 of the Warning Signs?
Sleep problems (too much or too little)
Changes in eating habits; weight loss or gain
A feeling of hopelessness
Withdrawing from, or losing interest in, activities you once enjoyed.
If you are experiencing these warning signs, I am encouraging you to seek help. Ask that friend or family member that says, “I wish I could help,” or “Call me if you need anything” to stay with your loved one while you go watch a movie or buy groceries alone.
If your loved one is on a schedule, helpers can come during naptime to make it easier for them. Be sure to mention that if the helper is somewhat apprehensive.
If your loved one gets anxious or angry at mealtime, it might be best to have that activity completed before having someone else take over. If the helping person is a previously non-supportive family member, you may want to let them have a difficult experience, so they can better understand your plight. You be the judge.
In my experience, family members may think they know what is going on, but they really have no clue until they have walked a mile in the caregiver’s shoes.
There is support. There are organizations that will help.
A small amount of research can reap wonderful rewards! Remember to check with your local church, Daily Living Center, Aging Services, Alz.org, and Aging in Place agencies will help.
You don’t need to go through it alone!