America is a country of caregivers. In fact, more than one in five Americans are caregivers, according to the “Caregiving in the U.S. 2020” report from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC). But caregiving can often come with a cost. In fact, 23% of American caregivers report that caregiving has made their own health worse, according to the same report.
If you are a caregiver yourself, it can be easy to overlook the warning signs that your own health is in decline as stress becomes overwhelming and caregiver burnout begins to take hold. By understanding the common signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout, you are better equipped to know when you need help and what relief options are available to you.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
There is no denying that caregiving can be a challenge. It’s easy to feel negative physical, emotional and mental effects from having to spend so much time and energy providing care for a loved one. If a caregiver fails to recognize this, it can take a toll on their life and health, leading to feelings of depression, isolation and resentment. Burnout can cause a caregiver to stop taking proper care of themselves and even lose interest in providing care for their loved one.
Take the Caregiver Stress Test
It is important to know the warning signs of caregiver burnout so that you can take steps to address them. Caregivers are often so focused on the needs of the person in their care that they are quick to sweep their own feelings under the rug. Here is a sample of questions that can help you gauge how much caregiver stress you are experiencing:
- Do you often feel like you have to do everything yourself, and also that you should be doing even more?
- Have you withdrawn from activities that were once a source of joy for you?
- Are you more often sad, exhausted, or angry than you used to be?
- Do you regularly feel stressed about money and health care decisions?
- Do you constantly worry about the safety of the person under your care?
If you answered, “Yes,” to one or more of the questions above, you likely need to take steps to better manage your stress and avoid suffering from caregiver burnout.
How to Lessen Your Caregiver Burnout
To put the brakes on burnout, there are a number of ways you can reduce the stress in your life.
Take Care of Your Own Health
There are simple habits of good health that you can practice every day, including eating nutritious meals, getting enough sleep each night and exercising regularly. They sound simple and easy on paper, but in real life it can be easy to cut corners when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. As a caregiver, you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of someone else. It’s important to make these habits a part of your daily routine.
If you are feeling isolated, know that you are not alone. Everyone has a friend or family member in their life that they can open up to, which is essential for a caregiver. You likely have many complicated thoughts and feelings about caregiving and it doesn’t do you any good to keep them bottled up. If need be, join a support group or seek professional counseling. There is no shame in needing someone to talk to about what you are going through.
If you are a caregiver who has to think back to when you had a social life, that needs to change. You may feel you don’t have time to meet up with friends, but try to make time. Every caregiver needs to engage in social activities that bring them joy, and it is especially important that these activities provide a break from your daily routine and the setting of caregiving.
Consider Respite Care
If you are unfamiliar with respite care, take a look around your community. There may be an adult day center or a residential care community that provides respite care services. The goal of respite care is to provide a place where your loved one can receive the care and support they need for a period of time, freeing up some time for you to take some time for yourself.
Respite Care at Oak Trace Offers Caregiver Relief
Oak Trace is a community that would welcome your loved one with open arms. Under our respite care, your loved one would have all of the benefits of a full-time resident, from access to our new state-of-the-art health center to our selection of delicious dining options. Most importantly, you’d be able to trust that your loved one is in good hands. We are here to provide them with the care and support they need so that you can find the relief you deserve.
If you would like to learn more about our respite care services and how we might be able to support you and your loved one, we encourage you to get in touch with our team.