The demands involved in caring for an elderly loved one can add up quickly, leaving a family caregiver exhausted and stressed out. Over time, the cumulative effect of caregiver stress can wreak havoc on both physical and mental health. In fact, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance almost 20% of caregivers feel that their health has suffered as a direct result of their caregiving responsibilities.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
Caregiver burnout is a state of physical and emotional exhaustion that leads to a negative sentiment towards the provision of care or the care recipient. The cumulative impact of dealing with the burden of providing care for an ill or aged family member leaves many family caregivers with high levels of stress, fatigue, and ultimately chips away at their own health and well-being.
Causes of Caregiver Burnout
Family caregivers often take on the role of providing care without planning, preparation or training. What often starts as an immediate response to help a family member with illness or injury turns into an unexpected long-term role. The work load, especially for primary caregivers who don't have outside support, becomes overwhelming. Additionally, family caregivers are often dealing with a shift in long-standing relationship dynamics when caring for a parent or spouse. The changes brought on by assuming the role of caregiver can add a great deal of strain to personal relationships.
As fatigue and frustration mounts, caregivers often find themselves bordering on burnout. If you find yourself noticing any of the following warning signs, take action to reduce stress, find respite care and seek help from your doctor to protect your own well-being.
Preventing Caregiver Burnout
The keys to combatting caregiver burnout are self-awareness and self-care. Both you and your care recipient will suffer if you’ve lost the interest or ability to provide quality care. Learning to recognize the signs of burnout is the first step in acknowledging that the demands on your time, energy and resources is impacting your overall well-being. Start the restorative process by developing some self-care strategies to help you de-stress and prioritizing respite care so you can take breaks from caregiving. After all, caregivers need care too.
The next step may be hiring a professional caregiver to assist with in-home care. Family caregivers cannot and should not feel responsible for providing 24/7 care. Making the decision to bring in outside help is a great option for recovering from burnout and reducing the negative effects of caregiving.
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