Dealing With Caregiver Burnout
Caring for a loved one is an age-old act of love and loyalty; however, it can prove to be an overwhelming journey. In addition to balancing life’s everyday demands, a caregiver must also ensure that the needs of their loved ones are being met. Unfortunately, caregiving can take a heavy toll if signs of stress are ignored.
The National Alliance for Caregiving states that family caregivers, on average, spend 20 hours per week providing care. Thirteen percent provide more than 40 hours of care each week – equivalent to a full-time job.
As a family caregiver, you are susceptible to caregiver stress – the emotional and physical strain of providing care for a loved one. As the stress of providing care increases, frustration and despair can take hold and burnout becomes a very real danger.
Some common signs of caregiver burnout include:
- Anxiety: You may feel anxious to get things done or you may feel that you don’t have enough time to complete all the necessary tasks.
- Sleeplessness: You may stay awake thinking about your long list of concerns or things to do. You may even feel tired, but be unable to sleep.
- Health Problems: You may begin to get sick more often than usual, experiencing physical warning signs like headaches, back pain, or neck pain. You may also experience significant weight gains or losses.
- Social Withdrawal: You no longer have the desire to see friends or family. You avoid people or activities that you once enjoyed.
- Exhaustion: Feeling run-down. This kind of fatigue makes it challenging to complete daily tasks. (Typical with caregivers who receive little or no outside support.)
When caregiver stress becomes overwhelming and the above symptoms are recognized, it is time to get help. It is critical that family caregivers take steps to focus on their own well-being.
Here are 6 steps to help you deal with caregiver burnout:
- Ask for and accept help. Be prepared with a list of ways that others can help you.
- Stay connected. Isolation increases stress. Try to keep in touch with family and friends.
- Commit to staying healthy. Schedule regular medical checkups. Try to find time to be physically active on most days. It’s also important to get enough sleep and to eat a healthy diet.
- Deal with your feelings. Bottling up your feelings can take a toll on your emotional – and physical – health. It may be helpful to share your concerns or frustrations with a friend, seek professional assistance, or join a support group.
- Get organized. Simple tools like calendars and to-do lists can help you prioritize your responsibilities. It is critical to remember to tackle the most important items first and to realize that you cannot manage everything.
- Take a break. You deserve it. Taking time for yourself is critical and only partially for your benefit. Your loved one will reap a benefit as well.
When more help becomes necessary, Caring Hearts and Direct Link can help make life easier and allow family caregivers time for themselves. If you need a weekend off or help on a daily basis, Caring Hearts and Direct Link can be there for you and your loved one.
If you are a caregiver, beginning to feel overwhelmed or have concerns that your health may be at risk, take the Caregiver Stress Check from The Alzheimer’s Association for additional information and resources or visit the Caring Hearts Caregiver Resource section!
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