Caring for Caregivers
A caregiver is anyone who provides care or help to another. It’s a broad term that can include family members or professionals. In elderly care, a caregiver generally helps with activities of daily living (ADL). Some professional caregivers may also offer medical-related services.
Caring is a full-time commitment and can sometimes cause caregivers to feel overwhelmed. Without resources and a caring community to fall back on, it can be challenging for caregivers to care for themselves.
What Is Caregiver Burnout?
Although caregiving can be a rewarding experience, it can also be draining, physically and emotionally.
When caregivers feel overwhelmed, it can negatively impact their health and ability to provide care. Notably, caregivers who experience prolonged strain have lower mortality rates.
The signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout generally include:
- Withdrawal (physically/emotionally)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling of losing control
- Losing interest in the things you like
- Neglecting personal care
Caregiver burnout may also experience physical symptoms, such as:
- Lack of energy
- Body aches/pains
- Frequent headaches
- Weakened immune system
- Appetite changes (increased or decreased)
Causes of Caregiver Burnout
Multiple factors can cause burnout. In most cases, caregiver burnout is a result of caregiving responsibilities. However, it’s also possible for external factors to influence a caregiver’s mental, emotional, or physical state.
For example, the caregiver may experience illness, affecting their health, energy levels, and ability to provide care. Additionally, their health condition can make them less resistant to the everyday pressures of caregiving.
Still, some of the most common causes are:
- Role confusion
- Unrealistic expectations
- Unreasonable demands
- Lack of control
Role confusion can be particularly challenging when a family member assists a loved one. For example, when children take care of their parents, it’s a bit of a role reversal. It’s not easy to maintain the relationship while caring for their needs.
When you help someone, you might expect improvement or gratitude. However, if someone is physically or mentally impaired, they may never improve. They may not recognize the help offered.
It can be frustrating spending time and energy with someone who may not exhibit any obvious signs a caregiver has a positive effect.
When loved ones or patients have memory problems, it can sometimes be disheartening to watch digression instead of progression.
Caregivers can often place too many responsibilities on their shoulders. They care, so they want to do everything they can to help—even if it’s beyond what they can reasonably accomplish.
Like a perfectionist, caregivers with unreasonable demands want to do their best, even at the expense of their wellbeing. Then, when they fail, it can feel like it’s their fault.
In some cases, a patient or loved one may be the one making unreasonable demands. They may not know they’re asking too much, but it has the same impact on the caregiver.
Lack of Control
Accomplishing tasks is a positive feeling, and organization or control helps us get things done. But unfortunately, sometimes things are out of our hands. For example, financial issues, health problems, or environmental factors can develop unexpectedly. So it can be frustrating when things can’t go according to plan. Worse if you can’t figure out the right strategy to get started.
A lack of control can be overwhelming. The burden weighs on caregivers when there are aspects they can’t change, even with their best efforts.
Can You Prevent Caregiver Burnout?
Many of the symptoms of caregiver burnout can be prevented or managed. Although some causes are unavoidable, recognizing symptoms or patterns can help alleviate negative feelings or physical discomfort before experiencing burnout.
Methods for preventing caregiver burnout are:
- Setting realistic goals
- Identifying your limits
- Consulting someone you trust
- Talking to a professional (doctor, therapist, clergy member, etc.)
- Making time for mental health
- Seeking education or resources about caregiving
- Staying healthy (nutrition, exercise, sleep)
- Taking advantage of care services
Caregiver burnout can sometimes accompany other mental states, such as depression. If an individual is genetically predisposed, it can be more difficult to prevent without medical treatment. If you experience symptoms, talk to a healthcare provider for treatment options.
It’s also crucial to know what support services are available. If a caregiver cannot continue providing care, even for a brief time, it’s helpful to know where to turn.
Respite care and adult day care are examples of short-term solutions. Even some assisted living and nursing homes offer short-term care.
Find Support with Silver Comet Village
Caregiver burnout is a serious issue and shouldn’t be ignored. Self-care can be difficult when you’re caring for a loved one. But there are options to improve comfort and quality of life—for you and your loved one. If your loved one needs long-term care, they might feel at home at Silver Comet Village. Schedule a visit or contact us to learn more about our caring community and available services.