Caregiver Burnout: Managing the Stress of Caregiving

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As a caregiver, many understand that caring for a parent or aging partner isn’t easy. Caring for a loved one can be psychologically and physically exhausting, leaving you feeling overwhelmed, weary, and chronically stressed - as even the most resilient individual can find themselves strained by the emotional and physical responsibilities of caregiving. To avoid caregiver burnout, it is essential that you take care of your well-being by accessing the numerous services and tools available to aid you in providing care for your loved one. 

What is Caregiver Burnout?

Caregiver burnout, as defined by WebMD, is defined as “the state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion”. Caregiver burnout is often accompanied by feelings of depression, anxiety, and fatigue, and many caregivers have noted changes in feelings and attitude towards their jobs - more specifically, feelings of negativity and unconcern.  

Caregiver burnout is often a result of neglect in one’s well-being, and can be caused by the following issues:  

  • Lack of privacy and personal space on the job
  • Conflicting & unreasonable demands from a family
  • Difficulty separating your roles as caregiver and an individual
  • Heavy workload
  • Lack of control with finances or resources in managing a senior’s care

 As a result of these work conditions, caregiver burnout can cause a range of physical and mental symptoms, including: 

  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Losing interest in hobbies and activities you previously enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in weight
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Feelings of wanting to harm yourself or the person you are caring for
  • Feeling hopeless, irritated, helpless and exhausted
  • Headaches, stomachaches, and other bodily aches and pains
  • Sleep issues (too much or too little)
  • Reduced immunity to diseases

  In a high-stress environment, you may be inclined to put others' needs before your own, making it even more essential to spot the signs of burnout and take measures to deal with it before it escalates. Local communities and senior living organizations can provide substantial support so that you do not have to bear all the responsibilities associated with caring for your loved one’s health needs. To help you manage caregiver burnout, we've highlighted some self-care practices, as well as strategies, to help prevent it. 

Take a Well Deserved Break

Caring for our ageing parents can be both physically and emotionally challenging. Despite your new responsibilities as a caregiver, it's important to set time aside for yourself to take a break and keep your passion for hobbies that once brought you joy. Consider asking a friend or relative to take over while you go for a brief stroll outside, watch a movie, or take a rest.  

 You may also consider hiring a private aide from a local home care service agency or an adult day centre in your community to aid you, as many senior living communities provide respite care where your loved one may remain with them for a short period of time. These services will provide additional help for your loved ones over the course of a short-term basis while you take the time needed to recuperate. 

Join a Support Group

If you feel alone in your struggles, consider joining a support group. Within your local area, you may be able to find support groups through hospitals, religious centers, and organizations like the Alzheimer's Association.  

Another alternative means of getting support if your loved one is living in a senior residence is to connect with the relatives of other residents in the same facility. Talking to the relatives of these seniors and caregivers in the same position as you can be a helpful way to gain a new perspective on how to deal with caregiver burnout and to help you find solutions to problems that may arise while caregiving.  

Nurture Positive Relationships

In times of stress, it is best to confide in close friends and family members who can support you. It can be useful to share your burdens with someone who is a good listener while establishing boundaries with individuals who will bring your mood down in the meantime. 

Look After Your Physical and Mental Health

Your overall health is just as vital as the health of your loved ones. Ensure that you’re taking care of your physical and mental well-being by setting aside time to get enough sleep and exercise throughout the week. Additionally, if you are dealing with health issues while caring for your loved one, it can be helpful to tell your doctor so that they can recommend a diet and exercise routine to help ensure that you're in the best condition to provide care.  

 If you notice that your mental health is deteriorating while caregiving, it is also important that you make an appointment to visit a professional. As therapists and social workers are educated to advise people who are suffering from a variety of different issues, they can provide you with helpful insight on how to help you navigate your emotions and problems. 

While caring for a loved one can be a rewarding task, it can also be a challenging one - but it doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. As a caregiver, It is critical that you are aware of the signs of caregiver burnout and take the proactive steps to address it if they arise while caring for a loved one, for both the well-being of yourself and the senior in your life.