Caring for one person – yourself – can feel hard enough some days. Yet caregivers graciously spend much of their time looking after someone else as well. Caregiving can take many forms, but all types of caregiving require patience, attention, and empathy. Over time the responsibility of caregiving can leave the caregiver physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. Known as caregiver burnout, this condition often occurs when someone tries to take on more than they can handle or doesn’t receive the help they need. If you’re a caregiver or you know a caregiver, watch out for the symptoms of caregiver burnout to ensure that both the caregiver and the recipient remain healthy and happy.
Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout
The symptoms of caregiver burnout often resemble the symptoms of depression, stress, or anxiety. If you’re concerned about caregiver burnout, watch out for the following signs that something is amiss:
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest in things once enjoyed
- Irritability or impatience
- Feeling sad or hopeless
- Changes in appetite, weight, or sleep patterns
- Frequently getting sick
- Exhaustion, whether mental or physical
- Excessive use of alcohol or sleeping aids
- High levels of stress or anxiety
Why does caregiver burnout occur?
Several different factors can lead to caregiver burnout. When this unfortunate condition arises, it’s often wise to see if these factors are to blame:
- Neglect of Oneself: The person is so busy caring for someone else, they neglect their own emotional and physical health.
- Role Confusion: The person struggles to separate their role as a caregiver from their role as a spouse, child, friend, lover, etc.
- Unrealistic Expectations: The person expects their caregiving to have a positive effect on the recipient’s health or happiness. In some cases (such as when the recipient has Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s), this is unrealistic.
- Lack of Control: The person is stressed or unhappy because they don’t have the finances, resources, or skills to effectively care for the recipient.
- Unreasonable Demands: Some caregivers expect too much from themselves, and they don’t ask for help.
- Lack of Recognition: The person doesn’t recognize that they’re suffering from caregiver burnout, so the situation worsens and the person’s health suffers.
How can I prevent caregiver burnout?
As a caregiver, it’s important to set realistic expectations for yourself and regularly check in with people you trust (your spouse, friends, parents, siblings, etc.) so that they can provide support. You may find it helpful to talk to a therapist or a doctor about your emotional and physical health. In addition, be realistic about your loved one’s health and accept that you have limits and needs. Stay healthy by focusing on your own nutrition, fitness, and sleep, and make time for relaxation and fun in your schedule.
Finally, remember that you’re not alone and it’s okay to ask for help. Consider exploring the benefits of an assisted living or memory care community. Your loved one might benefit from the round-the-clock care, resident camaraderie, and fun social events. Take a tour of a senior living community and ask questions about the services and amenities they offer. If you decide that your caregiving journey has ended, know that there are many kindhearted, attentive, and skilled professionals who can care for your loved one with grace and respect.
If you’re looking for a senior living community, check out The Shores of Lake Phalen in Maplewood, Minnesota, just 10 minutes away from Little Canada. Nestled into a gorgeous wooded setting between two lakes, The Shores of Lake Phalen offers apartment-style housing in a resort atmosphere. Residents enjoy numerous health and safety amenities, fun events and activities, a friendly and accommodating staff, and so much more. Schedule a tour of the community to explore our spacious apartments, elegant dining room, cozy library, and more. We look forward to hearing from you!