As a caregiver, have you found yourself saying “I just can’t do this anymore”? If so, you may be experiencing caregiver burnout. It is important to understand what caregiver burnout is, the warning signs and knowledge there is something that can be done to improve the state of burnout.
Caregiver burnout is a state of being emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted from the demands of prolonged caregiving. This state of burnout exists due to the ongoing stress of caregiving despite the rewards of being a caregiver. Many enter this state due to the prolonged nature of the care that has been provided. The outlook for improvement in the status of the health of the loved one may be deteriorating resulting in a sense of hopelessness.
Furthermore, many caregivers diminish their own needs to provide the care. They may neglect warning signs that something is happening within their own bodies and put off doctor visits. A caregiver can be in denial of the impact the stress of caregiving is having on their mental health. When a caregiver gets to this point, they could not only be jeopardizing themselves but also the person they are providing the care to.
Some warning signs of caregiver burnout on physical health is fatigue, pain, stiffness, poor nutrition and insomnia. Emotional health warning signs of caregiving are depression, anxiety, distraction, regret, anger, irritability and guilt. It is important to understand that caregiver burnout can be prevented by paying attention to the early signs and positively acting on them.
The first step is to recognize that your life and health are just as important as the person you are providing care to. You cannot provide the care they require if you are not at your best.
Secondly, address all signs of stress at an early point. Do not wait until they become major in scope. Make regular preventative care appointments with your healthcare provider. Have an outlet for participating in activities or hobbies you enjoy. Join a support group of other caregivers and have someone you can freely talk to. Practice time management and develop a self-care routine of exercise and eating right. Look into respite care services so that you can have time away from caregiving.
Finally, give yourself a break in knowing you are doing your very best.