Are you caring for a loved one or older adult? If so, you know how challenging the job can be. If you’ve become irritable and unhappy, it could be because of caregiver burnout, a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that is often accompanied by a negative change in attitude.
Burnout is most common when the primary caregiver does not seek help with their responsibilities and when they try to do more than they are physically or financially able to do. It’s an oppressive and overwhelming state of being, and it can be detrimental to the health of both you and your loved one or patient.
Here are some common signs to look for if you think you’re burning out.
You experience an overall lack of energy. If you’re always feeling exhausted or low energy, it could be a sign you’re taking on too much. When you’re taking care of someone else, it’s natural to put their needs first – and neglect your own.
You stop doing things you once loved and no longer take “me” time. Have you begun cutting the book club you’ve been in for years? Perhaps you feel too tired to do date night with your husband, or that painting class with your best friend. Many caregivers express feelings of guilt when doing personal things, unrelated to their patients. While that sentiment is coming from a good place, try to remember it’s just as important to take care of yourself as it is your loved one.
Taking care of others constantly can lead to stress and anxiety. Many caregivers describe taking care of mom or dad as their exclusive responsibility. They don’t ask for help or feel like no one can even if they asked. This level of commitment can be very stressful, not to mention exhausting. Consider getting respite care, either from friends or family, or from a community. Even taking the day to clear your head can be very beneficial for both of you.
You begin isolating yourself and withdrawing. Because of fatigue, guilt and listlessness, many caregivers withdraw from things they once enjoyed, and the people they care about. The lack of personal interaction with others contributes to their physical, as well as emotional, strain.
In fact, many caregivers work themselves sick. Neglecting your emotional wellbeing often leads to or goes hand-in-hand with negative physical consequences. Since you’re overworked, you’re likely not taking care of yourself physically. It becomes too tiring and time consuming to cook healthy meals or exercise regularly. But you have to find a way to take care of yourself too.
Increasingly impatient and irritated with the person you’re caring for. Feeling any or all of the above side effects, is more than enough to feel frustrated. If you’re feeling short-tempered and irritable, try not to take it out on your patient. Instead, try venting or channeling it into something productive. If you’re creative, consider listening to music, writing in a journal, creating a poem or song, or painting. If you need someone to talk to reach out, there are always people around to help. When you’re feeling particularly irritable, it’s best to step away from your patient, take a deep breath, and refocus – either on yourself or the job at hand. Respite care is intended to help caregivers take a break so they can be the best they can be (for themselves and their patients).
You feel like you’re not making a difference, no matter how hard you try. It can be unsatisfying not seeing the direct results of your hard work. And it’s even more complicated when your patient has a progressive, worsening disease like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. In situations like these, try to remember that it’s your job to preserve your patient’s dignity as much as possible, and to give them the best quality of life you can. It’s not your job to cure or “fix” them, as hard as that is to admit. In most situations, doing the best you can makes much more of a difference than you may realize.
When it’s not working anymore:
If you’re a caregiver experiencing burnout, you’re not alone. Taking time off, asking for help, and taking care of yourself are all good options to combat burnout. If it’s becoming too overwhelming, and your patient is beginning to suffer also, it may be time to find an alternative or more permanent resolution to your loved one’s needs.
If you realize it’s time to find a new home for you or your loved one, that offers support for their everyday needs, consider talking to a senior housing placement specialist with CarePatrol of Baltimore. They will sit down with you, access your needs and financial situation, and offer the best options they can find. They are also available for tours and guidance during your final search. You can contact a specialist at (410) 844-0800 or [email protected] Also find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CarePatrolBaltimore.