Caregiver burnout is plaguing caregivers throughout the world…and as our society ages, this phenomenon will become more and more apparent.
I have previously written about caregiver health and the downward spiral in the health of caregivers that can be directly attributed to the feelings of being burned out with nowhere to turn.
The resulting stress that gets imposed on the ‘sandwich generation’, who have their own children to take care of in addition to their aging parents, becomes more and more difficult to deal with. The feelings of helplessness begin to take hold as you see yourself being ‘chained’ to the person you are caring for.
Combine this with the feelings of guilt you have for feeling this way and you have a classic case of caregiver burnout. I am going to give you some ideas, as well as the resources available, to help you care for your loved one, live your own life and not feel overly guilty or stressed about it.
Video Overview of Dealing with Caregiver Burnout
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
First of all, let’s go over some of the classic signs of caregiver burnout. If you or someone around you notices these symptoms then you can dealing with burnout and need to get help…
• Overreacting to criticism
• Feeling fatigued even on nights you can get enough sleep
• Increased use of nicotine, alcohol, or drugs…or engaging in self destructive behavior like chain smoking
• Decreased productivity at work
• Not caring for your own personal grooming
• Loss of interest in hobbies
• Return of a chronic health condition, like an ulcer
• No time for friends
• Overeating, emotional eating or not eating enough
• Experiencing feelings of helplessness
• Refusing (or unable) to take vacations
• Feeling like a martyr, hoping the world keeps sorry for you
• Being overly emotional
• Increasing feelings of resentment
The bad news is that caregiver burnout won’t go away on its own. You need to do something about it. The good news is that help is available for you to receive the help you need.
Getting Help For Caregiver Burnout
Below I have several ideas/solutions to caregiver burnout. It is important to note that not all of these solutions may apply to your situation (ie: if you are the only family member living nearby then having a family meeting and dividing up responsibilities is not practical) but the suggestions below will give you suggestions to help as well as expose you to the resources that are available for assistance.
- First of all, it’s time to arrange for a family meeting. You need to sit down with the other siblings and loved ones and explain that you cannot handle the burden alone. Be very specific as to the areas in which need help (ie: shopping for mom, cleaning her house, taking her to medical appointments) without being judgmental or making yourself out to be a martyr (ie: “I do everything for Mom while the rest of you do nothing”). Explain calmly that you are just asking for everyone to do their fair share and to give you a break.
- Consider bringing in a home health care agency to relieve you of some of the burden. In a previous post I showed you how to check out a home health agency so you can be sure that you are making the right decision.
- Take some time for yourself. YOU ARE ALLOWED TO. Many times care givers feel so guilty doing anything pleasurable that they wind up never doing anything for themselves. You have to make time for you. Whether it is a hobby, exercising, a weekend getaway or just a walk around the block, you need to start doing things for your enjoyment. This is something that also should be brought up at the family meeting, in a nice way.
- Start taking care of your needs. Most care givers end up treating themselves very poorly. They do not eat right or get enough sleep and they stop exercising. You should also schedule a complete physical for yourself, especially if you have been exhibiting any of the signs of caregiver burnout.
- Contact your local Office of the Aging and your state’s Office of the Aging to see if they have resources to support caregivers, or if they know of any support groups near you, such as senior day care centers or know of volunteers looking to help in your area.
- Seek out sources of respite care. This is, literally, an agency or an individual that will be a ‘substitute caregiver’ for a few hours several days a week. You can use this website to do a state search for respite care centers around you.
- Churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship typically have the names of services and volunteers willing to help you. Utilize them if you have access to them.
- If your loved one is suffering from a specific disease (ie: Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc…) there are specific support groups to handle the issues caregivers face. You should look into those as well.
- If others want others to help you, SAY YES! A classic sign of care giver burnout is making yourself out to be a martyr by doing everything. It is due to the frustrations associated with the difficult situation at hand and the feeling that no one is willing to help. But friends and family will offer to help. Take them up on the offer.
NOTE: This was a big problem for me. Not only was I seeing myself as a martyr, I started to derive a sense of satisfaction from it. I could say at the family meetings that ‘I was doing everything for Mom.’
But the thing that I eventually realized is that this was MY problem, no one else’s, and the way to fix it is to just say yes when someone wants to help.
It certainly isn’t easy to deal with, and there are no “one size fits all” solutions out there. The most important things to remember are that
- You are not alone
- Help is out there