What happens when the helper does not get help? These empathetic and compassionate caregivers are struggling with burnout. The causes of burnout for caregivers are different than the causes of burnout for those in other fields, although the symptoms are very similar. Physical exhaustion is shown through their aches and pains and the need for rest. Mental exhaustion is shown through their cloudy thinking or issues with confusion. Moreover, emotional exhaustion is expressed through sadness, frustration, and depression. These are the main reasons those with the burden of caregiving get burned out, from doing more than they are capable of because they don’t have the help they need.
What are the main causes of caregiver burnout?
Generally, people with the role of caregiver spend their time taking care of someone else and neglect taking care of themselves. For example, this may be due to fatigue and being overwhelmed by caregiving responsibilities. Sometimes the care recipient or other family members have unreasonable expectations and demands of the caregiver. Some feel guilty if they spend any time taking care of themselves, so they focus wholly on the patient’s care, and don’t recognize the signs of burnout.
Stress and conflict are created by trying to meet the demands of everyone in one’s circle – a spouse, children, employer, neighbor, and the primary caregiver themselves. In essence, there’s always too much to do, and no alone time to decompress.
Symptoms of caregiver stress
The signs of caregiver burnout and stress are pretty much the same as for those who are not caregivers who are burned out. For instance, they withdraw from others, lose interest in activities and personal relationships they once enjoyed, are irritable, get sick more frequently, have insomnia and poor sleep patterns, and do not have a healthy diet. Symptoms that could lead to suicide ideation include feeling depressed and hopeless.
How can you prevent caregiver burnout
All caregivers have stress that comes with the extra responsibility of taking care of someone else. Learning strategies to help alleviate symptoms of stress is important for both the caregiver, as well as for the individual in their care.
Tips for taking care of yourself
- Recognize that your feelings and emotions are valid.
- Don’t beat yourself up for what you are feeling.
- Recognize that it is normal to feel anger or frustration.
- When you realize that you can’t do everything that the person needs you to do, label what you are experiencing as moral distress.
- After reviewing your day-to-day responsibilities, prioritize important tasks.
- Make lists and set realistic goals.
- Say no to things that drain your time and energy.
- Try to get enough sleep and focus on what you can do at night to get ready for a restful night.
- Eat healthy snacks and meals.
- Appreciate moments of awe. Look up at the sky and appreciate the fresh air on a walk through a park.
- Find someone you can talk to, whether a family member, a friend, or even better, caregiver support groups that can help you realize you are not alone and provide encouragement. People in a caregiving role going through what you are may have strategies for coping and helpful resources.
- Research what resources you have available in your local community as a caregiver. Sometimes there are classes by healthcare professionals or groups targeted for specific diseases or conditions. Resources commonly available include meal delivery, help with housework, transportation, and respite care, which allows the caretaker some much-needed time off. Contact your local AARP or Agency on Aging for information on services in your area.
Sometimes, family caregivers feel that they are the only one who can give quality care to their loved one. Accordingly, they can’t imagine leaving them in someone else’s care, even for a short while. It’s normal to feel guilty about taking time off, but it’s important to realize that there is no perfect caregiver.
There are three main types of respite care:
- In home services – Agencies provide a nursing or health aide who comes to the home to stay with the patient on a short-term basis, providing company and/or nursing help. This can also be utilized when the patient is ill and needs additional nursing care.
- Adult day care centers – A caregiver can take the patient to the center for a full or partial day of socializing, activities, medical care and other services.
- Short-stay nursing homes – some facilities take patients for a short stay of more than a day when a caregiver has to be away or needs a break.
All things considered, caregivers should never think that they are alone. Although it may be hard to ask for help or take a temporary break, it is okay to do it. They need to give themselves permission to put themselves first, if not all the time, at least some of the time.
Caregiver burnout and stress are painful experiences. There is no reason for a caregiver’s poor physical health due to their empathetic nature. These amazing folks don’t have to burnout. We all need to care about the caregiver and let them know that we appreciate them. Respite means a reprieve. Don’t we all need a break every now and then? Perhaps the blisters and scorch of burnout can become a warm glow or smolder in a way that does not overwhelm these beautiful people called caregivers.
Barbara is a leading authority and best-selling author on managing burnout, secondary traumatic stress, compassion fatigue, and vicarious trauma. As a nationally recognized keynote speaker, she motivates audiences to build their resilience and create work-life balance. Her programs help leaders and teams manage workplace chronic stressors and get over burnout at work.
Barbara's newest book, "But I Didn't Say Goodbye: Helping Families After a Suicide", is available now on Amazon - https://amzn.to/2FwS6JI
• Three weeks prior to giving birth to triplets, her father died by suicide. Her story was featured in the Emmy award winning documentary, Fatal Mistakes, Families Shattered by Suicide narrated by Mariette Hartley. Many employees are grieving personal loss. She offers programs for leaders on lost productivity and performance while managing grief at work.
• As a sought-after keynote speaker who has presented to over 500 groups since 1991, including corporations, state and national associations and non-profit organizations, Barbara offers work-life balance strategies for leaders to implement right away. With clarity and humor, her speaking engagements are designed to give audiences powerful and practical strategies of work-life balance, wellbeing, and self-care that can be implemented immediately.
• Barbara is a Board-Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress and Diplomate with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress. She received a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a Master of Arts degree in community health, with a concentration in thanatology, both from Brooklyn College.