Have you ever experienced burnout? Whether on the job or in your role as a caregiver, it certainly impacts how you feel. Burnout can lead to insomnia, depression, anxiety, frustration, anger, hostility – you get the picture, it is negative in so many ways. While much research has been done on the impacts of workplace burnout, scientists have spent less time studying the impacts of caregiver burnout, even though there are more than 43 million family members providing unpaid care for a loved one. There are a few things we understand though. Let’s explore this topic a little further.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
To better understand how caregiver burnout impacts you, it is important to define it. Basically, burnout occurs when family caregivers spend all their time providing care to a loved one or take on too many tasks that they are ill-equipped to or uncomfortable managing. Essentially, you keep going and going, taking care of one task after the next and never give yourself a break. That sounds exhausting! It can make you feel like you have lost your own identity.
The Signs of Caregiver Burnout include:
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Losing weight
- Sleeping less or sleeping irregularly
- Constantly feeling angry or like you are taken advantage of
- Neglecting your own physical or medical needs
As a caregiver, it is inevitable that you will experience some challenges. These impact your emotions and psyche. Even short-term, stress makes us feel irritable, anxious, tense and distracted. In some ways though, short-term, this is positive. It helps you react to the situation, search for new solutions and use the resources available to you to make improvements.
What Research Says About Caregiver Burnout
However, the problem comes in when stress is not only short-term. When providing care for an aging adult, it is easy to start to feel like you are out of options and solutions are not effective or available. According to a Huffington Post article, stress compounds when a caregiver continues to try to do everything without reaching out for help, and this makes the real story even larger than you might initially think.
The same article mentioned above goes further to explain the potential impacts of burnout that is not effectively managed in the short-term. It can “harm your brain’s memory and learning capacity by reducing the volume of gray matter in brain regions associated with emotions, self-control and physiological functions.” In other words, “Chronic stress can shrink your brain.”
Again, stress alone is not a bad thing, but it is important to get it under control before it derails you. So, how do you do that?
Make a plan – Taking care of an aging loved one is difficult to do alone. Involving family members and professional caregivers makes the job easier. Can your brother commit to taking mom to her doctor’s appointments? Is your sister willing to help with managing the bills or ordering prescription medications? Will your friendly neighbor prepare some meals once or twice a week? Can the family chip in for a few hours of respite care on a weekly basis? Working together, finding solutions is easier.
Explore community resources – From support groups to adult daycare and counseling services, there are a lot of resources available right in your community. Commit to signing up for at least one. Having the ear of a support group makes it easier to think through problems and find solutions. Attending counseling sessions helps you to develop and refine your own coping mechanisms. Adult daycare might provide your loved one with socialization opportunities and you with a much needed break. A meal delivery service gives you time off while a volunteer brings your loved one a hot meal.
Take care of yourself – Emotionally and physically, realize the importance of taking care of you. If you are physically unwell or mentally despaired, coping with the demands of caregiving is so much more difficult. Visit your doctor, take your medications, exercise, eat healthy meals and give yourself breaks. Go easy on yourself. You cannot do it all. It is not a weakness to ask for or accept help.
Caregiver burnout impacts millions of Americans, and it impacts more than just how you feel. Your brain is at risk too. Go easy on yourself, reach out for support and accept help. Salus Homecare San Fernando Valley respite care can be an effective part of your plan. Give us a call to explore the ways in which we can help.
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