Caring for a loved one can be one of the most rewarding jobs of your life. Knowing that your loved one is able to age in place, at home where they’re comfortable, is reassuring for many families. But often the reward comes with risks as well.
It’s not uncommon for caregivers to feel frustrated, stressed out, angry, exhausted or guilty while caring for a loved one. All of this puts caregivers at risk for emotional, mental and physical health problems. Surveys show that from 40-70% of caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression, and caregivers also experience a higher level of chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer than non-caregivers.
Our team at Piedmont Home Care is well aware of detrimental affects the work of caregiving can have on a person’s physical and mental health. Our work in the home care field has put us in close proximity with many families who are rising to meet the challenges of helping loved ones age in place, and we’re equipped to help you relieve the burnout and stress that can come from full-time caregiving responsibilities.
Causes of Burnout
It might seem counterintuitive that a person who is caring for an aging family member or friend out of love will get frustrated and depressed, but it helps to understand the root causes behind the situation. Role confusion is one common reason for burnout. When caring for a spouse or parent, you often have to take on a role of nurse or attendant, something very different from the role you played in your relationship prior to being a caregiver. This can lead to frustration and stress.
Other things that lead to burnout include unrealistic expectations placed on the caregiver, and unreasonable burdens for one person to handle. For example, you might feel that your attentions will help your loved one feel better or you want to see improvements in their health, but for loved ones with chronic illness or dementia, improvements aren’t medically possible. Also, it’s important for families not to ask too much of a caregiver, expecting them to serve in ways you’d expect from a professional nurse.
Warning Signs for Caregivers
You might be experiencing caregiver burnout if you’re exhibiting any of these symptoms:
· Anger or frustration toward the person you’re caring for
· Anxiety or depression
· Exhaustion and fatigue
· Irritability or moodiness
· Inability to sleep well
· Lack of interest in social activities
· Getting sick more often due to decreased immune system
How to Help Relieve Caregiver Burnout
If you’re finding yourself frustrated with your loved one, going to bed exhausted each night or have very little time for taking care of your own health and well-being, it’s time to reach out for help.
Support groups. It’s great to have friends to talk things through, but sometimes you need a little more than a shoulder to cry on. Look for local support groups for caregivers to help you find others in your area who are going through some of the same challenges. The Piedmont Triad Regional Council has a comprehensive list of support groups in our area.
Set realistic goals and tend to your own self-care. It’s important to remember you’re not a superhero. You can’t be everything to everyone all at once, even to your loved one that you’re a caregiver for. Set realistic goals for yourself, to help relieve some stress and feelings of guilt. Also, set aside time for self-care. It might be just a walk to the mailbox or some time enjoying your favorite show, or it could be as much as a weekend away with friends. Whatever you can do to get relief from the daily stress will help ease the feelings of burnout.
Make use of respite care. Our team of caregivers at Piedmont Home Care are qualified professionals who are well-equipped to take care of your loved one with the same care and compassion you provide. Before you get to the point of burnout, consider respite care to help manage some of the tasks and responsibilities surrounding the long-term care for aging loved ones. Allowing a professional to manage the tasks of daily care can help you maintain the role of spouse or child and keep your relationship intact.
For more information on how Piedmont Home Care can help with caring for your loved ones, call our team at 336-724-1197.