Caring for another person can be a stressful experience. Thousands of families rely on family caretakers to provide care for chronically ill, disabled, and elderly family members. On average, these family caretakers spend about 20 hours every week caring for their loved one, and often work outside the home as well. It’s not surprising that many caregivers suffer from burnout. Learning about burnout and how to manage it is an important part of caretaking work.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
As someone who looks after a family member, you perform a variety of tasks in addition to your regular housework, career work, and social obligations. You may need to work with a tight budget, provide support for medical care and treatment, and balance your own family life with the needs of your loved one. Caregiving can be highly disruptive to your normal life, which is why it is even more important to look after yourself.
Burnout is a term that refers to a caregiver experiencing too much stress to continue performing their duties effectively. Long periods of stress, inadequate sleep and nutrition, and other factors can increase the risk of burnout. Burnout can also contribute to health risks for caregivers.
The Warning Signs of Caregiver Burnout:
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Sleep problems, either too much or not enough
- Changes in eating habits
- Weight loss or gain
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Neglecting physical and emotional needs
- Feelings of being overwhelmed or controlled by caregiving
- Mood changes, such as impatience, irritability, and argumentativeness
- Depression or feelings of sadness
- Difficulty coping with everyday pressures
- Headaches, stomachaches, or being physically unwell
- Lowered immune resistance, or always is fighting off a cold
Stress can have physical effects. For this reason, monitoring stress and reducing it is a key part of caregiving. If you are frequently ill, are struggling with emotional or mental wellness, or are seeing other problems in your life that aren’t normally an issue, it is possible you may be struggling with burnout.
How to Address Caregiver Burnout
Burnout is a natural part of caregiving, especially if you aren’t actively working to prevent it. If you notice that you’re feeling worn out, here are some steps to help you recover and get back to feeling your best:
- Ask for help. Caregiving is hard, hard work, even for professional caregivers. You’re probably juggling your entire life with your caregiving duties. Don’t be afraid to seek help, whether it’s professional assistance, another family member, or even seeing a therapist to talk about your struggles.
- Take breaks. You wouldn’t work a double shift at work without taking time to rest and eat. Don’t forget to take care of your own needs, including your social needs. It’s okay to go out and see friends, take some time for a bath, go to the gym, or otherwise care for yourself.
- Look after your health. It can be easy to skip a meal, but it can become a habit. Be sure to eat regular, healthy meals, as well as stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep, and look after your own health needs.
- Take time alone. You can take 15 minutes in the morning to meditate, drink your coffee in peace, journal, read, or otherwise prepare for your day. The important thing is to schedule time alone to focus on yourself.
- Make a to-do list, and then assign it. You don’t need to take on every task alone. Write down everything you need to get done, and then see if you can delegate parts of it to others. Can your spouse make dinner a few times a week? Is your best friend willing to run errands for you, or even accompany you? If there are people who are willing to help, take them up on it!
- Look into family leave benefits at work. If you work while also caring for a loved one, you may be eligible to take some time off under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Talk to the HR personnel at your work to learn more.
- Attend support groups. While taking more time out of your day to attend a support group can seem unnecessary, these meetings can be very helpful. Sometimes the opportunity to vent can help immensely, and you may learn helpful tips from others who are handling the same things you’re facing.
- Find out more about respite care. Respite care is offered by many care facilities, and allows family caregivers to take some time off. Respite care is frequently in-patient care, which allows full-time caregivers to provide care and support around the clock during your loved one’s stay. Respite care is an important tool to help you take necessary breaks, especially if there is no one else to provide the level of care needed.
Our Westchester long-term care facility is here to help you shoulder the burden of being a caregiver for a loved one. At King Street Rehab, we offer a variety of services to help you handle your loved one’s needs, from respite care to long-term care. Our luxurious facility and highly trained staff offer compassionate care and therapies to let your loved one enjoy their time here. Let us assist your family today.
Schedule a tour to learn more about our facilities or call (914) 937-5800.