There are more than 43 million adults in the United States currently taking care of an elderly, chronically ill, or disabled family member or loved one. Over 13% of the current American population is a caregiver.
On average, caregivers spend over 24 hours a week caring for their loved one, although almost a quarter of people (23%) reported providing 41 hours or more of care per week. All this time adds up to a burden of care that affects caregivers broadly, with 40% of them reporting high levels of stress.
Does this sound familiar to you?
If so, you’re not alone. Caregiver burnout affects thousands of people across a broad range of professions. However, there are ways to address and prevent caregiver burnout so you can still care for your loved one to the best of your abilities without the stress and pressure.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
Caregiver burnout is best described by WebMd as: “a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude — from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned.”
People may feel the effects of caregiver burnout if they are not focusing on their own needs, or trying to accomplish too much that is physically or financially impossible. Caregiving can be both physically and emotionally demanding and it’s easy to feel exhausted. Caregivers experiencing burnout may be feeling anxious or stressed and experience depression, fatigue, or guilt.
If left unchecked, caregiver burnout can take a toll on your health and personal relationships—as well as on the person you’re caring for.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout?
It’s important for you to recognize when you’re overwhelmed so you can take immediate action to prevent your stress and exhaustion from becoming worse. Recognizing common signs of caregiver burnout is the first step to finding ways to improve the situation for both you and the person you’re caring for.
Common signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout include:
- Exhaustion: You feel like you have much less energy than usual. Despite getting enough sleep and rest, you find yourself constantly exhausted.
- Rundown: You feel more physically fatigued than usual and seem to be getting sick more often; a lingering cold never goes away and you can’t shake feeling tired often.
- Irritability: You’re increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you’re caring for, or even other people.
- Neglectful: You start to neglect your own needs; everything you do starts to center around caregiving although it is less fulfilling than before.
- Melancholy: Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and alienation become more commonplace.
- Lifestyle Changes: You may notice changes in your sleep patterns, appetite, and weight; you may not enjoy your hobbies anymore.
If any of these symptoms sound familiar to you, you are likely experiencing caregiver burnout. However, there are some simple steps you can take so you can get back to your old self.
How do You Treat Caregiver Burnout?
There are many different ways to go about caregiver burnout treatment. Here are a few suggestions to address feeling burned out or overwhelmed:
Recognizing you have caregiver burnout may mean you should see a licensed therapist to help you with coping strategies. A therapist can help you with talk therapy and recommend relationship techniques to help address your pressure and reduce stress.
Finding help and encouragement in local support groups or friends and family can help reduce your stress and any feelings of alienation. Support groups can be exceptionally helpful since they can be good places for finding resources and disease-specific caregiving expertise.
You should also reach out to other family members to pitch in, or communicate how you're feeling so you can use them as a support system. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or isolated, family members can offer emotional support and possibly help take some of the caregiving responsibilities off your shoulders. Perhaps you can schedule one day where your sibling takes care of Mom or Dad so you can have a day to focus on yourself.
Focus on What You Can Control
It’s important to be realistic. Make a plan and draw up a list of what you’re able to do and what you may need help with to accomplish. Making a plan, with your family members’ involvement if relevant, will help you be aware of your limits so that you don’t exhaust yourself. Setting boundaries from the outset will ease your burden in the long run.
Accept Your Feelings
It’s perfectly normal to have negative thoughts and feelings about your responsibilities. Just because you’re experiencing frustration doesn’t mean you’re a bad caregiver. Addressing your emotions instead of suppressing them is important for caregiver burnout treatment.
Prioritize Your Health
It’s important to take breaks for your emotional health and to stay physically healthy through exercise, proper sleep, and good eating habits. It’s also important to take time out of the week to devote to yourself, by doing things such as reading a book or going to a yoga class.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
Technology can be your friend; digital tools that can aid you with caregiving include automated alerts, health tracking apps, and personal emergency response systems (PERS). The right technology can be a valuable asset so it doesn’t feel like you have to work alone when caring for your loved one.
Smart home devices can help give assurance to both you and your loved one when you are away through remote monitoring. These tools allow you to monitor the home environment, such as temperature, appliances, and property security, and can alert you in case of an emergency, which can give both you and your aging loved one peace of mind. And if you need help navigating the market for the right digital tools for your loved one, a Homethrive Care Guide can help as well.
Prevent Caregiver Burnout with Homethrive
Remember - by prioritizing your own needs and health, you can prevent caregiver burnout and be in better shape to provide care for your loved ones! To find local or online support groups and resources, visit the websites of dedicated organizations, such as Caregiver Action Network and the National Institute of Aging.
At Homethrive, we specialize in ensuring you have all the support you need for your caregiving experience and help you provide the best possible care for your loved one. We can help with finding support groups, therapists, and resources, in addition to coordinating third party services such as transportation, meal or medication delivery, home care and so much more.