So, you’ve become the primary caregiver for an ill or aging loved one. Caregiving for a family member can be rewarding work, particularly since it can allow your loved one to remain at home as opposed to a facility. However, it can often cause a great deal of stress to the caregiver, eventually leading to emotional and physical burnout.
Caregiving for a loved one can be a very long-term commitment, and changes in your loved one’s diagnoses, medication, and lifestyle can shift their physical and emotional needs as well as complicate your job as caregiver. Whatever the medical situation, you will most likely experience a change in your relationship with your loved one, as caring for them may force you to see each other in a different light. These are just some of the reasons why maintaining self-care as a caregiver is so vitally important for both you and your loved one.
How to Spot Caregiver Burnout
Most people are familiar with the feeling of being burnt out; typically, burnout stems from a taxing work environment or a hefty pile of schoolwork with a strict deadline. However, you can experience burnout in your personal relationships too, especially in a caregiver relationship. In a caregiver relationship, one person has an unusually elevated level of responsibility over the other, which can easily develop its own set of problems. If you neglect self-care as a caregiver, burning out at some point is not only possible—it’s very likely.
Some signs of burnout include:
- Irritability/anger/resentment, often toward the family member you’re caring for
- Difficulty concentrating/brain fog
- Change in sleeping patterns
- Change in eating patterns
- Loss of enjoyment in leisure activities
- Increased susceptibility to sickness
If some or all of these signs apply to you, you are most likely experiencing caregiver burnout. However, before you make any drastic changes to your loved one’s care, there are some steps you can take to reverse your burnout and improve your mental and physical health as well as your relationship to caregiving.
Steps You Can Take to Address Caregiver Burnout
Recognize yourself for the job you’re performing
Many family caregivers don’t even use the term “caregiver,” instead just assuming the helping functions they perform as part of their role as child/parent/spouse, etc.
Adding “caregiver” to your arsenal of roles in life can help you compartmentalize the work you do in this category. Compartmentalizing will allow you to separate your caregiving work into “on the clock” and “off the clock” mentalities, therefore giving your “caregiver” self the chance to truly rest when it is not needed.
Find ways to take breaks
Don’t be afraid to lean on other family members or a professional caregiver once in a while. Those around you want to see you happy and healthy, and you might be surprised how willing the other people in your life will be to help you take a much-needed respite. “Me time” is one of the most overlooked yet vital keys to good mental health and a positive mindset. Additionally, knowing you have a spa day or lazy day to look forward to might help you to stay present and patient with your caregiving work.
Learn to accept what is
Depending on the family member you’re caregiving for and their specific situation, you may feel some resentment toward the fact that you have to be a caregiver at all. Plus, you may have trouble forgiving yourself for mistakes you’ve made while caregiving, thinking that your love for your family member should make caregiving come naturally. The fact is, however, neither of these mental pathways are helpful or healthy. Letting go of resentment toward the things you cannot change, and resentment toward yourself for not being perfect, will greatly help you to move away from burnout.
Don’t bottle it up
Caregiving can bring feelings of joy, connection, anger, resentment, and everything in between. The greater emotional burden you carry, the more likely you are to burn out. Share your thoughts and feelings with your partner, your friends and family, a trusted therapist, and even with the loved one you are caregiving for, when appropriate.
Get extra help at home
If the stress of family caregiving becomes too much, or your family member requires care outside of your ability, a professional in-home caregiver is a great option. A professional caregiver can give your loved one the attention and expertise they need, while giving you and your family some invaluable peace of mind.
If you or your family member is considering in-home care as part of a plan to age in place, contact Family Matters In-Home Care today for a free consultation. Our team is dedicated to supporting your family and helping older adults enjoy life in the comfort of their own home for as long as possible.
Some of the services offered by Family Matter In-Home Care include: Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care, Bed & Wheelchair Transfer Assistance, Companionship, Housekeeping & Meal Preparation, Personal Care, Recovery Care, and Transportation.