Dealing With Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver burnout is commonly seen in families or in helping professions. A great deal of time and energy is targeted towards family members, patients, and clients, often consuming their lives. Burnout is characterized by attempting to do more than one is able, and changing from a positive, helping attitude to an apathetic, negative one. Caring for someone who is physically ill, mentally ill, or disabled can be exhausting. The pressure of being relied upon by someone who cannot take care of themselves is an enormous responsibility. Many individuals experience guilt when they spend their time on themselves rather than caring for their patient or loved one.
Here are two scenarios to consider:
- Caregiver burnout can look like a nurse who cannot stop thinking about their patients when they are off the clock. The nurse may lose sleep and feel anxiety about being unable to “fix” their patient.
- Caregiver burnout can also look like a son caring for his chronically ill or disabled father. The son is preoccupied with his dad’s health and well-being, so he neglects his basic needs.
In both situations, the caretaker puts all of their physical, mental, and emotional energy towards the people relying on them. The individual then experiences fatigue, apathy, anxiety, or depression. The scope of this article will discuss the causes, prevention, and restoration techniques for caregiver burnout.
Signs You Are Experiencing Caregiver Burnout
The symptoms of caregiver burnout are similar to stress and depression symptoms. Signs of caregiver burnout include:
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and other loved ones
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless, and helpless
- Changes in appetite, weight, or both
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Getting sick more often
- Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person whom you are caring for
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
Causes of Caregiver Burnout
The causes of burnout come from several factors. Unrealistic expectations are common when caring for older adults or individuals with an evolving issue. Many caregivers expect their involvement to affect the patient’s health and happiness positively. However, this may be unrealistic for patients suffering from a progressive disease, such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's.
Burnout can stem from an individual confusing their role in life and being thrust into a caregiver’s role. When a relationship suddenly changes from daughter, son, wife, husband, or friend to caregiver, people tend to become overwhelmed.
Lack of resources is another cause of burnout. It is frustrating not being able to afford treatment or medicine for a loved one. This lack of resources may result in the caregiver using their savings to contribute to their loved ones’ needs.
People that are sick typically have high needs and have to be watched and monitored. Taking care of someone is time-consuming, and many caregivers neglect their own needs, like eating properly and getting enough sleep. In addition, caregivers may be unable to partake in social activities and may lose friends. They may lose time for their hobbies, resulting in depression and a lack of personal identity. In more extreme cases, family caregivers may have to quit their job to stay home and take care of their loved ones.
Preventing Caregiver Burnout
There are several techniques to prevent caregiver burnout. Caregivers must set aside time to take care of themselves, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Talking to a friend or licensed professional is essential for releasing frustrations and pent up emotions. If the caregiver is religious, church groups can also be helpful. This way, they can stay true to their faith and provide prayer for the person they are caring for or even themselves. Churches and small groups are crucial to providing community and helping a caregiver to stay plugged in and receive support. Staying social and keeping up with hobbies is beneficial for staying joyful and upbeat.
Accepting that a loved one is ill and needs constant care is a significant life change. Sometimes it is best to seek help from outside resources, like hospice care or assisted living. There are also options for at-home care that offer caretakers a break a few days a week.
Restoration means returning to an original, unimpaired state. Taking a break is typically the best remedy for restoring a caregiver. Returning to previous hobbies and routines is essential for maintaining a balance between work and self. Caregivers also need to acknowledge their feelings and accept that there will be exhausting and stressful days. Talking with support groups or therapists can be a great outlet.
Caregiver burnout is more common than we might think. Dealing with the responsibility and pressure of caring for life is unimaginably stressful. When the weight of the work becomes too much, many caregivers find themselves buried under depression and anxiety. When left untreated, the effects can manifest in one's health and ability to function. Some caregivers may turn to alcohol or drugs to alleviate their stress. If you or a loved one is experiencing caregiver burnout, allow yourself or your loved one a break. If you find yourself struggling with symptoms of anxiety, depression, or substance use, do not hesitate to reach out for help. At Achieve Medical Center, we treat a wide range of psychological and behavioral disturbances. Our staff is well educated and trained to provide a treatment tailored to your specific needs. Achieve Medical is a unique, multidisciplinary, private psychiatric and mental health practice. We offer comprehensive mental health services for Southern California, Oregon, and Alaska regions. To schedule a free consultation with Achieve Medical, contact us today at (619) 375-3977.