How Caregivers Can Prevent Burning Out When The To Do List is Too Long
Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude. Does this sound familiar? If it does, you need to reach out for help. Your loved ones would not want you to operate at this level and you wouldn’t expect a loved one to power through those feelings.
If you aren’t sure if you are experiencing burnout or are just tired from a rough week, here are some signs. Note – signs of caregiver burnout can be similar to stress and depression.
- Withdrawal from friends or family
- Loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed
- Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless and helpless
- Change in appetite, weight or both
- Change in sleep patterns
- Getting sick more often
- Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself of the person for whom you are caring
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
- Excessive use of alcohol and/or sleep medication
What Causes Caregiver Burnout?
As a caregiver, you spend so much of what should be your personal time, caring for someone else’s needs. Add in the needs of a spouse, children, job and household, and there is very little time left to care for your own needs and health. After you’ve been doing this for months or years, it’s no surprise that you begin to experience signs of burnout.
The demands on a caregiver’s mind, body and emotions can become overwhelming. You can also be frustrated over the lack of control, or seeing a loved one struggle. It can also be difficult for caregivers with a Type A personality, who constantly strive for perfection, as they have high expectations for themselves and have difficulty seeking support.
Preventing Caregiver Burnout
The situation is not hopeless. There are ways to prevent burnout, or turn things around if you are already experiencing burnout. It can be challenging to put your needs first, but if you don’t care for yourself first, you can’t care for others. Pushing yourself so hard that you have nothing left to give doesn’t benefit anyone.
Here are some things you can do to help yourself:
- Find someone you trust to talk to about your frustrations. If you can’t get out of the house, find an online support group or set up a regular check-in with a friend or family member.
- Set realistic goals and ask for help when you need support.
- Be realistic about your loved one’s condition and needs and enlist help to manage the challenges.
- Set aside time for yourself. It can be hard to make time for yourself, but even 10, 15 or 20 minutes of self-care can be beneficial.
- Talk to a professional. Most insurance providers offer a few sessions with a therapist. There are even therapy apps available if you can’t get to a therapist’s office.
- Take time away. It can be hard to get away when you are caring for someone else, but if you plan ahead and work with your support network or reach out to places that offer respite care support, you can make it happen. Even taking a night away in a local hotel can make a world of difference.
- Know your limits. It is OK to say no to things that aren’t priorities. Reach out to family members, friends or neighbors to lighten your load.
- Accept your feelings. All of your feelings are perfectly normal. You are not a monster for feeling frustration or anger. Just find a way to cope with those feelings.
Where to Turn When You Experience Caregiver Burnout
- Adult Day Care or Senior Centers: If you are concerned about your parent being home alone for extended periods or being lonely at home alone, look into adult day care or senior services. They can have lunch and engage in activities with others.
- Nursing Homes or Assisted Living: Some nursing homes and assisted living facilities offer respite care support for those people who don’t have someone to step in for respite care.
- Agency on Aging or National Support Groups for Various Conditions: Many organizations offer support from transportation to house cleaning. You just need to ask. You can find contact information for some of them on my Resource page.
No one has superhuman powers. Be kind to yourself and care for yourself. If you had a friend in your situation, you would tell them that caring for themselves is important, so take the advice you would give others.