HAS YOUR ATTITUDE CHANGED? Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion AND Is often accompanied by a change in attitude — from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned. Burnout can occur when caregivers don’t get the help they need, whether offered by others or requested by self; or if they try to do more than they are able — emotionally, physically or financially. Caregivers who are “burned out” often experience fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression. Many caregivers also feel guilty if they spend time on themselves rather than on their ill or elderly loved ones.
WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS OF CAREGIVER BURNOUT?
Caregiver burnout symptoms are similar to the symptoms of stress and depression. They include:
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Feeling sad, irritable, hopeless, and helpless
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and other loved ones
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- Changes in appetite, weight, or both
- Getting ill more often
- Thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF CAREGIVER BURNOUT?
Often caregivers are so busy caring for others that they tend to neglect their own emotional, physical, and spiritual health. The demands placed on a caregiver’s body, mind, and emotions can easily seem overwhelming, which may lead to fatigue and hopelessness — and, eventually, burnout. Other factors that can lead to caregiver burnout include:
- Role confusion — Many people are confused when thrust into the role of caregiver. It can be difficult for a person to separate their role as a caregiver from that of their role as a spouse, lover, child, or friend.
- Unreasonable demands – Often caregivers see their role of providing care as their exclusive responsibility placing unreasonable burdens upon themselves.
- Impracticable expectations — Many caregivers expect their involvement to have a positive effect on the health and happiness of the ill person. This may be unrealistic for sufferers of a progressive disease, such as Parkinson’s, Lewy Body Disease or any other dementia.
- Lack of control — Many caregivers become frustrated by insufficient money, lack of knowledge of available resources, and lack of skills to effectively plan, manage, and organize their loved one’s care.
- Other factors — Many caregivers cannot recognize when they are suffering burnout and eventually get to the point where they cannot function effectively. Quite often even they become sick.
HOW CAN I PREVENT BURNOUT?
Some helpful steps to help prevent or avoid caregiver burnout:
- Talk about your feelings and frustrations with someone you trust — a relative, a friend, a co-worker, or a neighbor
- Establish realistic goals, accepting that you may need help with caregiving, and turn to others for help with some tasks.
- Be practical about your loved one’s disease, especially if it is a progressive disease such as Parkinson’s.
- Remember yourself. It is harmful to both of you if you’re too busy caring for someone else to take care of you. Set aside time for yourself, even if it’s just an hour or two. Remember, taking care of yourself is not a luxury. It is an absolute necessity for caregivers.
- Speak to a professional. Most therapists, social workers, and clergy members are trained to counsel individuals dealing with a wide range of physical and emotional issues.
- Make use of respite care services. Respite care provides a temporary break for caregivers. This can range from a few hours of in-home care to a short stay in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
- Do a reality check of your personal situation and know your limitations. Recognize and accept your potential for caregiver burnout.
- Become educated about the disease. The more you know about the illness, the more effective you will be in caring for the person with the disorder.
- Develop new tools for coping. Remember to lighten up and accentuate the positive. Use humor to help deal with everyday stresses.
- Your health is very important. Stay healthy by eating right and getting plenty of exercise and sleep.
- Acknowledge and accept your feelings. Having negative feelings — such as anger and/or frustration — about your responsibilities or the person you are caring for is normal. It does not mean you are a bad person or a bad caregiver.
- Join a caregiver support group. Sharing your feelings and experiences with others in the same situation can help you manage stress, locate helpful resources, and reduce feelings of frustration and isolation.
WHERE CAN I TURN FOR HELP FOR CAREGIVER BURNOUT?
Seek medical attention if you are already suffering from stress and depression. Stress and depression are treatable disorders. To prevent burnout, consider turning to the following resources for help with your caregiving:
- Adult day care centers — These programs offer a place for seniors to socialize, engage in a variety of activities, receive needed medical care and other services.
- Agency of Aging — Contact your local Agency on Aging or your local chapter of AARP for services available in your area such as adult day care services, caregiver support groups, and respite care
- Caregiver support services — These include support groups and other programs that can help caregivers recharge their batteries, meet others coping with similar issues, find more information, and locate additional resources.
- Home health services — These agencies provide home health aids and nurses for short-term care, if your loved one is acutely ill. Some agencies provide short-term respite care.
- Nursing homes or assisted living facilities — These institutions sometimes offer short-term respite stays to provide caregivers a break from their caregiving responsibilities.
Private care aides — These are professionals who specialize in assessing current needs and coordinating care and services.