Caring for a spouse or older family member can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. It can also become stressful at times. This is especially true if a loved one has dementia or needs around-the-clock care.
In addition to caregiving duties, caregivers may also have health problems of their own, have children to care for, or jobs that require them to work outside the home.
The strain of it all can exhaust the most committed of caregivers, leading to caregiver burnout.
Signs of caregiver burnout.
The Cleveland Clinic describes caregiver burnout as “a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion.” It happens when you don’t get the help you need or if you try to do more than you’re able, physically or financially. When you try to do too much and feel overwhelmed, family and friends may be the first to notice that you’re not yourself. Here’s a short list of symptoms that signal it’s time to devote some attention to your own well-being as well as your loved one.
- A short fuse. If you’re feeling grumpy and snippy, or get easily frustrated with people and life, you may be experiencing caregiver overload. Take a deep breath and count to 10 before reacting to any situation. A short mental health break will help you handle stressful situations with grace.
- Withdrawal from social and family gatherings. If you don’t have the energy or desire to attend family gatherings or meet up with friends, you may be experiencing caregiver burnout. Caregivers often take on more responsibilities than they can handle, leaving no time for themselves. This can lead to feelings of sadness and depression.
- Getting sick often and not fully recovering. The stress of caregiving can lower your immune response, increase risk of anxiety or depression, and even shorten your life span. Take time for self-care. If you’re sick, you can’t fully care for a loved one, and you may be putting the health of a loved one at risk.
- Loss of sleep. Not getting enough sleep is a major cause of illness and stress in caregivers. When you’re exhausted, you’re more likely to be irritable, which leads to inappropriate anger followed by guilt. Talk with your doctor about getting help with sleeping through the night. And be sure to fit in exercise to give you a break, combat depression, and maintain your health.
If you’re experiencing any of these signs, ask for help. Talk with someone you trust about how you feel. And reach out to caregiver support groups at your local church, community center, government agencies such as Eldercare, or Artis Senior Living caregiver events.
10 tips to help caregivers avoid burnout.
Follow our tips to help you cope with the challenges of caregiving, find more balance in your life, and prevent caregiver burnout.
- Become educated about the condition. The more you know about your loved one’s condition, the better you’ll be able to care for them. Ask health professionals as many questions as you need to when you’re in appointments. Make use of available educational resources, such as the Alzheimer’s Association or other national organizations.
- Set aside time for yourself. Don’t forget about yourself because you’re too busy caring for a loved one. Set aside time for yourself to relax and recharge, even if it’s just an hour or two.
- Practice healthy living. You’re much more capable of being a help to others when you eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Taking care of yourself is not a luxury; it’s a necessity for caregivers.
- Stay social. Spending time with friends can help sustain you and keep you positive. Simply sharing what you’re going through can be cathartic. If you can get out of the house, great. But if it’s difficult to leave, invite friends over for coffee or dinner.
- Accept help. The best way to avoid burnout is to accept help. Try to get as many family members involved as possible. Friends often want to help but don’t know what you need or how you’re feeling. Make a list of ways others can help, such as picking up groceries or sitting with your loved one while you run errands.
- Talk with a professional. Caregiving can be an emotional roller coaster. Most therapists, social workers and clergy members are trained to counsel individuals dealing with a wide range of physical and emotional issues.
- Develop new tools for coping. Remember to lighten up and accentuate the positive. Use humor to help deal with everyday stresses. If a loved one has dementia, they may get angry or say hurtful things. Remind yourself that this is because of the illness. Try not to take it to heart.
- Allow for caregiving holidays. Take some time away. You’ll be a better caregiver to your loved one if you do so. Enlist friends and family to help so you can take a break. Respite care at a senior living community that offers care for your loved one’s condition can be a great option.
- Establish a support system. While you may be the primary caregiver for your loved one, make sure you have a team to help support you. Find people you can cry to, laugh with, and help you cope with the everyday stress that comes with this tough job. Join a caregiver support group where you can share your experiences, reduce feelings of isolation, and locate helpful resources.
- Research your options for full-time care. Acknowledge that there may come a time when your loved one will need more services and care than you can provide at home. A Memory Care neighborhood, for example, can provide a safe, calming environment with staff members trained to manage dementia symptoms in a kind, compassionate manner.
Learn more about your options at an Artis community.
We’re here to help you understand the types of care available to determine the best way forward for your family. That includes care for a loved one as well as providing education and support for caregivers. To learn more about our approach to Memory Care, contact us. Or find an Artis community near you.
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