Up to 43.5 million caregivers like you provide informal care for a loved one, reports AARP. While you appreciate the opportunity to meet your loved one’s personal, physical and other needs, you may experience emotional and physical burnout, which affects your overall health and your ability to provide the best level of ongoing care. Understand the warning signs and ways to alleviate caregiver burnout as you care for your loved one and yourself.
Warning Signs of Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver.org found that providing care for a loved one requires an average of 24 to 45 hours per week, the equivalent of working a part-time or full-time job. You may spend this time performing tasks like food prep, housekeeping and giving medications. You also may groom, feed and bathe your loved one and coordinate doctor visits, manage finances and medical research information. The time and energy you expend can result in caregiver burnout.
According to Web MD, caregiver burnout refers to the physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that occurs when you’re overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities related to providing care for your loved one. You can recognize the signs of caregiver burnout when you look for these symptoms in your life.
- Lack of energy
- Sleep problems, including insomnia overnight or drowsiness during the day
- Changes in your eating habits
- Weight fluctuations
- Physical problems, including headaches, stomach aches, and reduced immunity
- Irritability, impatience or argumentativeness
- Reduced focus
- Depression or mood swings
- Withdraw from family and friends
- Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
- Resentment toward your loved one or other people in your life
- Trouble making decisions
- Financial concerns
- Difficulty coping with everyday life
- Using unhealthy substances, behaviors or activities to get through the day
- Neglect of your physical, emotional and mental needs
- Feeling out of control in one or more areas of life
- Hopeless feelings
- Denial about how you feel
- Anxiety about the future
Many caregivers experience one or more of these symptoms in varying degrees. Rest assured that if you experience any or all of these symptoms, you are perfectly normal, and help is available.
How to Alleviate Caregiver Burnout
When you notice that you’re experiencing symptoms of caregiver burner, take steps to alleviate them. Small changes reduce the symptoms, improve your life balance and restore your ability to provide the best level of care.
- Accept help.
- Acknowledge your feelings.
- Get enough rest.
- Do something just for you each day.
- Maintain your physical and emotional health.
- Keep moving.
- Prioritize tasks.
- Ask for flexible work hours.
- Take FMLA.
- Take breaks often.
- Join a support group.
- Hire in-home helpers.
When family, friends or neighbors offer to help, let them. You may delegate housekeeping tasks, accept rides or allow someone to sit with your loved one while you step away from your duties for a bit. This help gives others a chance to spend time with your loved one and lightens your load.
It’s normal to feel frustrated, depressed or tired as you provide care to others, but you must be honest with yourself before you experience positive changes in your health, attitude, and life. Write in your journal, check in with a friend or see a therapist as you acknowledge your feelings and get real about your needs.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Create a sleep hygiene routine and follow it as you get the rest you need.
Savor a hot cup of coffee, groom your dog or read a book as you pamper yourself and do at least one thing each day that brings you joy, peace, and fulfillment.
Instead of neglecting your own health and well-being because you’re too busy, schedule and keep regular doctor, dentist, and mental health appointments. You can provide better care when you’re healthy.
Exercise improves your mood and energy, and it boosts your physical and mental health, so make time each day to walk, dance or otherwise move your body.
Make a list of tasks you need to finish each day, then rank them in order of importance. Permit yourself to complete only the most important tasks today, and let everything else go for another day or delegate those tasks to helpers.
Talk to your boss about the possibility of changing your work schedule or working from home. Flexible work hours can help you achieve a better work-life balance.
The Family and Medical Leave Act, FMLA, gives you up to 12 weeks off work, so consider taking this leave as you reduce stress and free up time to care for your loved one and yourself.
You may be the primary caregiver for your loved one, but give yourself permission to take regular breaks. Care for yourself, so you can adequately care for your loved one.
You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel and how much clearer you can think when you talk with others who understand what you’re experiencing. They can celebrate the joys of caregiving and offer helpful coping strategies and tips, too.
Meet your loved one’s needs when you hire daily or as-needed help to meet your loved one’s needs and to give you a break.
As a caregiver, you spend many hours of your time meeting your loved one’s needs and providing an invaluable service, but you need to care for yourself, too. That’s why it’s crucial for you to recognize and alleviate the symptoms of caregiver burnout.
Additionally, you may contact us for reliable, professional and compassionate care. Whether you need help every day, once a week, several times a month or occasionally, take advantage of our in-home or nursing and rehab services as you care for your loved one and yourself.
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You can’t care for someone else if you don’t take care of yourself first. Ask us about our companionship services, in-home care, and respite care.