Recognizing the signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout can help identify the solutions and support to caregivers.
What is caregiver burnout?
Caregiver burnout is defined 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.”
If you’re a caregiver, you probably take pride in the fact that you take such good care of your aging loved one on your own. Maybe you’re an empty nester or a retiree and this is what you want to do. But even with the best intentions, caregiver burnout can set in. Especially if your elderly loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, different types of dementia or mobility challenges.
Experiencing caregiver burnout can happen slowly without a caregiver realizing it. Caregivers can slowly start to feel the stress of caring for someone else and it can cause the utter depletion of their emotional and spiritual well-being. This burnout is very common among many caregivers and should be addressed holistically.
Everyone who takes care of a loved one whose health is declining needs support and assistance from family, friends or caregiver support groups, including online communities and support groups. Despite being in the role of a caregiver does not mean that the individual has to or should stop taking care of themself. This can be a difficult decision when a caregiver feels guilty or is too tired to take time to care for themself.
Taking care of yourself is also a way of taking care of your loved one, because they depend on you to be at your best every day. Don’t feel guilty or wait until you feel burned out to begin taking care of yourself. Here are some definite signs of caregiver burnout suggested by AARP that indicate it’s time to make some changes.
What are the Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout?
In general, there are some specific symptoms of caregiver burnout that loved ones or the caregiver themself can recognize. These may be unique to the individual, but here are some basic warning signs and burnout symptoms:
Unable to concentrate
Sad all the time
Anxious and fearful
Lethargic and low energy
Guilty and worthless
Depressed for two weeks or more
Needing alcohol to relax
Lingering back aches, skin rashes or the flu
5 Signs of Caregiver Burnout
If you’re a caregiver for someone else and can relate to any of the signs below, you may be experiencing burnout and should seek support.
Wild emotional swings. If you feel happy one minute, and then sad and helpless the next, you’re probably experiencing burnout. As you ride the emotional roller coaster of caregiving, you can swing from joy to anger. Mood swings are a definite sign that something’s wrong.
Constantly sick. You catch every bug that comes your way. Stress can suppress your immune system and can cause you to constantly become sick. If you are getting sick more often and staying sick longer than you used to, your body is trying to tell you something. Listen up.
Short temper. You’re snapping at everyone. When you feel helpless and overwhelmed, you’re more likely to overreact to things people do, or don’t do. This is a good sign you may need a time out.
No physical activity. You know you should exercise, but you don’t make the time. Caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to find a way to keep yourself in shape if you’re going to make it through every mile along the way.
Losing interest in socialization. You can’t remember the last time you met a friend for dinner or a movie. Caregivers — motivated by a mix of love, loyalty and a dash of guilt — rarely allow themselves an evening out. Take some time to nourish your soul and catch up with people who mean a lot to you. Socialization is important for seniors but it’s also important for caregivers too.
How to Prevent Caregiver Burnout?
Caregiver burnout can sometimes reach a level where health and safety for either you or your elderly loved one are at risk. This is a point when it’s vital to take a break. Learning to recognize symptoms of caregiver burnout before it gets too far is important to alleviate the stress and find the proper support.
Respite Care Is an Option
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Caregivers can try short-term respite care with the help of senior housing communities. This will give them a chance to relax and catch their breath. If you’re a caregiver and decide on respite care, your loved one may appreciate the change of scenery and enjoy some socialization with people their own age for a period of time.
A respite stay in short-term senior housing may be necessary if you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, stressed and depressed. As a caregiver, it’s important to take care of yourself and take a break when needed.
Health and Wellness Can Help
If you’re a caregiver or have a family member who is a caregiver, encouraging them to take care of themselves and engage in wellness activities can make a huge difference. This could be activities such as:
Taking frequent, short walks
Finding time for relaxation and meditation
While there is support for caregivers, recognizing caregiver burnout symptoms is the first step in making a difference in finding the right support and helping the caregiver take care of themself.
Seniorly is a trusted resource for comprehensive information on short-term senior housing, including respite care. The Seniorly website offers resources for caregivers presented by top experts in the field.
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