Burnout can be experienced by individuals who feel they haven’t done enough or are doing more beyond their capabilities. It is a state in which a person feels physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.

Caregivers experience burnout when they feel guilt from focusing more on themselves than the person they care for. A caregiver’s attitude towards others changes from positive to negative due to burnout.

Whether you’re working as a nursing home caregiver, family caregiver, or taking care of your loved one, read this post so you can avoid burnout.

Emotional and Mental Health Stress

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), caregivers are among the three most stressed groups in America. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness that’s caused by a horrifying event, either experiencing it firsthand or witnessing the incident. Symptoms may include nightmares, flashbacks, severe anxiety, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

PTSD, according to some research, can be caused by a special kind of stress experienced by the caregiver. Sometimes, burnout can easily be mistaken as an overpowering feeling of exhaustion. Too much stress, for example, can cause frequent headaches.

Psychological and emotional problems caused by stress are related to mental health issues. Family caregivers who don’t have time to take care of themselves tend to experience increased stress.

This is also the time when illnesses start to show. Thus, caregivers are at a high risk of immune imbalance. This is another reason why caregivers suffer from a high rate of chronic disease compared to other non-caregiving professions.

Caregivers taking care of patients with Alzheimer’s disease face physical exhaustion as well as emotional and psychological challenges. Because of caregiver burnout, low quality of care is unavoidable due to frustration, regardless of how much love the caregiver has for their patient.

Causes of Caregiver Burnout

Caregivers experiencing burnout can lead them to make mistakes. They can endanger the lives of their loved ones or patients by mismanaging their medications. Caregiver burnout can even lead to unhealthy behavior such as smoking, alcohol, and drug abuse.

Common causes of caregiving stress are:

  • Not having enough time to rest and relax; being unable to spend quality time with their families or friends
  • High work demands, which cause caregivers to be at high risk for developing burnout
  • Being uncertain of the job role: on what to do, how to organize everyday tasks, the job demands, or if they’re doing it right, causing stress, depression, or fatigue in the caregiving process
  • Emotional pain, especially in a loved one’s care; seeing their family member, whether their mother or father, experiencing pain or battling a chronic illness

Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout

Symptoms are the subjective experiences that a person goes through that may indicate a disease or illness. These symptoms cannot be measured using any test. This is why it is more challenging to determine if a caregiver is indeed experiencing burnout.

Some caregiver burnout symptoms are:

  • A feeling of self-doubt or a sense of failure
  • Feelings of detachment
  • Helplessness or feelings of defeat
  • A more negative outlook on life
  • Decreased sense of accomplishment

These symptoms may be subjective and can differ from person to person. Yet, we cannot deny the fact that they should be taken into consideration and not be taken lightly. Looking into these can be a start in developing the caregiver’s respite care that can offer them short-term relief.

Warning Signs of Caregiver Burnout

In America, 40 million adults take care of someone elderly, either with an illness or a disability. This work has been described as stressful by 32% percent of caregivers. 

It is good to know what caregiver burnout is to prepare yourself and minimize the effects of burnout as much as you can. Experiencing burnout should not be taken lightly by anyone. Here are some of the warning signs of caregiver burnout:

1. Sudden Weight Change

Some people who are stressed out or experiencing anxiety problems often don’t have the appetite to eat. In contrast, some people eat in excess through frequent snacking on unhealthy food. Changes in eating patterns can lead to weight gain or weight loss, extreme stress, fatigue, and even depression.

2. Sleep Problems

Difficulty falling asleep is also a sign of caregiver burnout. One’s role as a family caregiver, along with its emotional implications and liabilities, can cause many sleepless nights.

3. Social Isolation

It isn’t easy to get out of your job, especially if it is about a person you’re caring for. It is not easy once you have formed an attachment to the person you’re looking after.

You spend most of your time taking care of your loved one that you no longer have time for yourself. You unconsciously see their world as yours. You lose interest in activities or hobbies that you previously enjoyed. You become isolated for this reason.

4. Emotional Outbursts

When situations become difficult or unexpected, care aides cry to express extreme emotions or feelings. They may not be diagnosed with clinical depression, but expressing extreme emotions serves as their way of unconsciously venting out their feelings of overwhelm or frustration.

Caregivers can show a wide range of complex emotions depending on their individual situations and experiences. People around caregivers experiencing burnout should be more patient and understanding of their situation.

How to Deal with Caregiver Stress

A caregiver’s time, energy, emotion, and health are affected when caring for a loved one who has an illness, physical impairment, or disability. Due to the increase in senior population, more caregivers are in demand. Almost one in every three adults is receiving care or informal help from non-medical practitioners or their family members.

Every individual has their own way of handling stress. However, here are some ways that can help you deal with caregiver stress:

1. Ask for Help and Support

Caregiving is never easy. That is why we can always ask for help. As a caregiver, don’t expect the family members to know and understand what you are going through. Try to include them in the process. Let them know what you are going through so they can understand your situation more.

Also, get your employer to know and understand your situation. Some employers provide care programs that include leave times and a free evaluation provided by the geriatric services managers. Sadly, some employers don’t give assistance or service support to their caregiving staff. Data reveal that only 2% of workers use the plans or programs in their work.

If you’re caring for a family member, ask other family members to take care of your loved one in shifts, or at least give you a day off to have time for yourself.

2. Seek Options for Respite Care or Adult Day Care Programs

You can also reach out to your patient’s physician, who may suggest respite care. You can look for caregiving programs such as home health care, assisted living, respite care, nursing homes, and adult day care for your loved one.

3. Join Support Groups

Also, check in with your family, friends, church, or support group as often and regularly as you can so you’ll have someone to talk to. Getting support from other people like a support group and finding a safe space for you is good to lessen the stress you are going through. It is a great place for you to share your concerns and worries and find individuals in the same situation.

There are several support groups online that you can keep in touch with. As for the rest of us, let us support caregivers by helping them and checking on their mental health. Caregiving may be their specialty, but caregiver support is a must so they can deliver quality care.

4. Take Care of Yourself

Do not neglect your health when caring for someone else. You can properly take care of them when you are happy, fit, and well. Fuel your body with healthy food by adding more protein and healthy fat. Ease your mind by practicing relaxation, meditation, or even yoga.

If you can ask for leave or break, go someplace else and get as much sunlight and peace as you can. Go outdoors, spend time with your family and friends, and pamper yourself. Under The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, a caregiver can have a year’s worth of unpaid leave for family reasons. Take advantage of the opportunity and reconnect with your peers, friends, and family members.

You can talk about other things outside of your work. Don’t forget to have a social life. If you have medical appointments, make sure you don’t skip them. Get enough sleep, rest, and relaxation as much as you can.

5. Make a Self-Evaluation

Ask yourself whether you are not eating properly, cannot sleep soundly, or even hate your work. Look at yourself and check if you are having or are about to experience burnout. Knowing yourself is the first step in avoiding burnout and stress. 

Don’t let your job control your life. Don’t pressure yourself too much. What’s important for your patient or loved one is that they feel comfortable and safe in your presence and care.

Every small step is a win. Count your wins when you feel discouraged. Remind yourself the reason why you are doing what you are doing now.

6. Get the Support and Appreciation You Need

Providing care for someone is indeed selfless and rewarding work. However, we can’t deny that it can also get exhausting and frustrating at times. Due to overwhelming caregiver stress, burnout happens and affects your life and health negatively.

Take steps to reduce your stress and anxiety if you see the need for this after doing your self-evaluation. It is essential that you maintain your mental, emotional and physical health. The same goes for the caregiver’s family member.

If family care aides are appreciated and valued by their patients and family members, they become more effective, less demanding, and healthier. They also need internal and external validation for the exhausting work they do day in and day out.

Lastly, know more about the available local resources to help you take better care of yourself and become better at handling difficult and frustrating situations.

7. Seek Professional Help

Feeling alone is always scary. You don’t know where to go or who to turn to. You just want to quit your job or shut the world down.

But you can’t just leave. You are taking care of your loved one or doing your job. What do you do?

Consider therapy and counseling as something that can truly help you. Book an appointment now at Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC). Our counselors are here to support and assist you every step of the way. KCC therapists can also connect you to support groups for caregivers.

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