Caregiver Burnout and Stress – Symptoms and Treatment
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While caring for a loved one is certainly not stress-free, there are ways and means to overcome caregiver burnout. By paying attention to known symptoms and opting for a treatment program. Essentially, it is a state of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion that has to be dealt with using either trusted respite care services or joining a support group.
Caregiver burnout manifests itself in the form of anger, exhaustion, guilt, or rage. These are some of the symptoms that come to the forefront when caregivers are put through tremendous stress in caring for a chronically ill person.
While the demands of caregiving prove to be overwhelming and exhausting, there are several steps you can take. This will allow you to take control of caregiver stress and alleviate burnout to regain a sense of joy, balance and hope in your life.
Caregiver Burnout – What is It?
Caring for loved ones can be very rewarding, but is also quite stressful Because, caregiving is often a long-term challenge, the emotional toll can be far-reaching.
As a caregiver, you often love what you do and would dedicate years to various caregiving responsibilities. However, it can be disheartening for anyone who starts feeling they are in over their head. This can be especially true when there seems to be no hope for the person being cared for to get better.
If left unchecked, the stress associated with caregiving can take its toll on your health, your state of mind, and the relationship with the person you are caring for. Combined, all these stress factors eventually lead to caregiver burnout to the point where you are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. Once you reach this point, it is detrimental to both you and the person you are caring for.
This is why it is crucial to understand the stressors of caregiving and ways to take a much needed break. Using services such as respite care, adult day care centers or paid caregivers can provide the support necessary for you to avoid burnout.
Caregivers who experience this burnout may have to cope with caregiver fatigue, anxiety, stress, and depression.
Caregiver Burnout Symptoms and Causes
Caregivers are constantly caring for others and often neglect their health to the point of facing burnout. Other factors that may lead to burnout include:
Unrealistic expectations: Many caregivers are too hard on themselves and expect their care and involvement to produce positive effects on their patient's happiness and health. This can be unrealistic when caring for patients with progressive illnesses, such as dementia, Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease.
Confusion with the role: At times many individuals are thrust into the role of caregiver. This is often a challenging transition from the role of child or friend.
Unreasonable demands: At times the caregiver expects too much of themselves, wanting everything to be perfect. Other times unreasonable demands come the one being cared for or other family members.
Lack of finances: In some instances, the caregiver becomes frustrated due to certain limitations, such as a lack of funds, which they require to take care of the loved one effectively.
Sadly, many caregivers do not even recognize that they are suffering from caregiver burnout and reach the point where they cannot function any longer or fall ill.
Caregiver burnout symptoms
The burnout symptoms a caregiver will experience are similar to symptoms of depression and stress, which include:
Loss of interest in activities you enjoyed previously.
Feeling irritable, blue or down, helpless, and hopeless.
Changing sleeping patterns.
Falling ill more often.
Withdrawing from family, friends, and other loved ones.
Changes in weight and appetite
Physical and emotional exhaustion
How to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
Below are some steps to take to avoid caregiver burnout:
Talk to a respected friend or family member whom you can trust about how you feel.
Take a temporary break from the person you are caring for utilizing respite care services. It does not have to be extensive and can range from only a couple of hours to a brief stay in an assisted living facility (sometimes up to a week) for the elderly loved one you care for.
Set achievable goals for yourself, which includes turning to others for help with specific tasks. Try making a list of all the things needed to be done in a week and consider which ones can be eliminated or given to someone else to help with.
Set aside time for yourself, even if only for an hour or two
Turn to clergy members or social workers for assistance with physical or emotional issues.
Adopt a healthy eating routine and ensure you get enough rest and plenty of exercises.
Accept any negative feeling and do not beat yourself up over it as it's quite normal at times during the stress of caregiving.
If you are already suffering from caregiver burnout, it is recommended you seek medical attention as depression and caregiver stress are both treatable.
Some useful resources to turn to when caring for a loved one include:
Adult daycare: where seniors are encouraged to engage in all sorts of activities and socialize
Caregiver support services: These would be support groups to help caregivers recharge their energy levels or even meet others who face similar issues.
One thing is for certain. Caring for loved ones will never be stress-free. The tips and suggestions provided here will help to lighten the load. They may prevent the symptoms associated with caregiver burnout, so there can be healthy balance in the caregiver's life.
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