While taking care of a loved one may have its rewarding moments, it can also feel absolutely thankless and full of unexpected stressors. Sometimes you are so focused on providing care that it becomes hard to prioritize your own, as caregiving demands can turn out to be exhausting and even crushing at times. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to begin feeling powerless, depressed, and burned out.
According to WebMD, caregiver burnout refers to a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. Signs of caregiver burnout may include:
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions.
- Intense and recurrent feelings of anger, sadness, or fear.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Drastic weight changes or other unexplained health problems.
- A noticeable difference in your ability to be patient, kind, or calm.
- Decreased participation in activities that bring you joy, like spending time with friends, activities, hobbies, maintaining relationships, etc.
Many caregivers spend an average of 20 hours per week caring for their loved ones. In addition to this, many are also working full-time (61 percent in 2020, reported by AARP) and possibly raising children too. Working while managing your caregiving responsibilities such as grocery shopping, picking up medications, transportation, and housekeeping can be overwhelming. Add in physical care as well, like bathing and helping with the toilet, it makes sense for one to feel overwhelmed. The tasks are a lot to take on, even if you’re sharing caregiving responsibilities with siblings or other family members.
Statistics show that caregivers report fair to poor health, which rises from 14 percent in the first year to 20 percent after 5 years or more. It’s extremely easy to fall into this state when you end up having to meet roles you didn’t anticipate, or when circumstances change.
The Family Caregiver Alliance indicates that caregiving can have somber physical health effects. In fact, 17 percent of caregivers feel their health, in general, has worsened as an outcome of their caregiving duties. Eleven percent of family caregivers say that caregiving has caused their physical health to worsen. Unfortunately, 40 – 70 percent of family caregivers have substantial clinical signs of depression-and caregivers report experiencing physical and emotional strain, even more so for those caring for loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia (28 percent and 23 percent, respectively).
It’s important to stay on top of your own health to avoid burnout. Here are some ways you can find more balance in your role as a caregiver.
Ask for Help
Caregiving is a marathon. This is why asking for help can make a world of difference, both for your own mental health and the safety of your loved one. According to AgingCare, asking for caregiving assistance will help with managing the moving parts and avoid getting too stressed, anxious, and depressed. Ask yourself, “what can be outsourced and to whom?” Then, enlist the help of neighbors, friends, and family members. Create a schedule that allows for planned visits, check-ins, support; having your go-to support system in place when you need a break.
Join a Caregiving Support Group
Periodically surrounding yourself with others who completely understand your experience as a caregiver, and can support you in ways that others may not know how, is very valuable. A caregiver support group can provide a safe and comfortable space for you to talk about the challenges or struggles you may be experiencing. It can also be nice and even rewarding to help others too. Perhaps you’ll meet someone in the group who is now at a place where you once were, and you can give them the support and advice you wish you received at that time.
As hard as it may seem at times, practicing acceptance of your loved one’s conditions, and the role you’re playing in their care, can help uplift and empower you. Embracing your caregiving role and that you made a thoughtful choice to support them is powerful. Try celebrating small achievements within this role by reminding yourself that your efforts matter and you’re providing a quality of life to your loved one that others may not be fortunate enough to have. Research shows that appreciation (both external and self-driven) leads to greater physical and mental health in the face of the many demands of caregiving.
Seek Therapy With Someone Who Specializes in Caregiving
Prioritizing your mental health is critical as a caregiver. If you get too stressed, burned out, or depressed then you won’t be able to help anyone. In order to maintain stability and consistency in showing up for your loved ones, try seeing a therapist who specializes in supporting caregivers. A specialized therapist can help you with practical coping strategies, stress-relief tactics; getting good sleep, and generally being able to better manage your emotions and avoid caregiver burnout.
Remember, you cannot provide care for your loved one if you yourself are not physically, emotionally, and mentally fit for you first. Visit my website to learn more about caregiving and how to cope with caregiver burnout: https://marchickcounseling.com/services