Becoming a caregiver to an aging relative with a chronic health condition can be a beautiful gift for the relative and for you as the caregiver. You enjoy quality time with each other, which may have never been an option before.
However, as you well know, caregiving has its challenges. Depending on the condition and temperament of your relative, the work itself can be draining, and it may require a financial commitment on your part. Not only that, but you might be taking time away from your own family, job, and other interests and responsibilities to help your family member. Over time, this can lead to caregiver burnout.
What Is Caregiver Burnout?
WebMD describes it 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." It happens when you give and give without taking time to rest and rejuvenate.
This can happen no matter how much you love your relative; caregiver burnout is common among caregivers.
What Are the Signs of Caregiver Burnout?
The ALS Association identifies three stages of caregiver burnout:
- Frustration: Your relative's health may decline despite your best efforts, and you start to feel like your work is pointless.
- Isolation: You lose your sense of purpose as a caregiver. You feel unappreciated, but you don't want to seek help from others.
- Despair: You lose interest in the task enough to become ineffective as a caregiver. You may start to lose interest in caring for yourself, as well.
These stages are accompanied by symptoms such as the following:
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits.
- Increase in consumption of sugar or alcohol.
- Urge to smoke more often, or start again if you had quit.
- Headaches and other health issues.
- Irritability and impatience.
- High stress and anxiety, quick to overreact to small annoyances.
- Sensitive to criticism.
- Sense of feeling trapped and alone.
- Feelings of resentment toward your aging relative.
- Thinking often in terms of "if only this would happen" or "if only this had never happened."
- Contemplating suicide.
If you notice these types of changes in your own life and personality, or if you notice them in a caregiver you know, it is time to seek help.
How to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
- Be Realistic: There's no perfect caregiver. You're doing the best you can, and that's a good thing!
- Educate Yourself: The more you know about your family member's condition, the more empowered you feel to help.
- Join a Support Group: Fellow caregivers understand what you're going through and can offer advice and support.
- Take Time for Yourself: You can't serve others unless you feel healthy and energetic. Take time to recharge in whatever way works for you: eat well, exercise, read, get a massage, and join friends for coffee or other social events.
- Make a Plan: Map out a plan for your time commitment as well as your financial commitment.
- Relax: Tai chi, yoga, visualization techniques, meditation, and breathing practices can help you calm down when your responsibilities start to get to you. Read more about relaxation techniques here.
- Get Help: You don't have to do this alone. Sometimes, a little break is enough to get you back on track, which is why respite care can be a lifesaver for a full-time caregiver. The Pavilion Senior Living Guespitality Program offers short-term care for your relative so you can go on vacation, focus on work or family needs, or simply take time to yourself to recharge your batteries. These stays can be a few days or a few weeks, whatever you need. Your relative enjoys expert care as well as the opportunity to meet new people and participate in new activities.
If you would like to learn more about respite care and how it can help you be the best caregiver possible, please contact us. We're here to answer your questions and, if you'd like, to welcome your relative for a short stay with us. Let us know how we can help.