Being a caregiver is a difficult job, but also a highly rewarding and much-needed one. Giving care to someone is one of the most generous things a person can do, giving someone in need both time and energy to help them recover or age comfortably. Though caregiving is wonderful to provide, it’s also very stressful and caregivers run the risk of burnout from the work it takes to care for another. Due to this very real type of exhaustion, it’s important to know how to overcome caregiver burnout and seek help if you’re beginning to have symptoms of fatigue from the job.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
Before discussing how to recover from and avoid burnout, or know the symptoms of it bubbling up, let’s define what caregiver burnout is:
Burnout for caregivers is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that is often accompanied by changes in attitude and manifesting as negative or unconcerned feelings toward caregiving.
On the first read, many caregivers will think they could never feel that way towards those they’re caring for, but with the physical and mental energy it takes to perform the job, it isn’t uncommon. There are numerous factors that can lead to burnout for a caregiver beyond the daily responsibilities of caring for another:
- Unrealistic expectations for yourself: It can be deeply frustrating and exhausting to care for someone with a progressive disease like Alzheimer’s. Many caregivers enter their role thinking their care will have a positive impact and that expectation combined with a disease that will progressively get worse no matter the level of care can lead to personal grief.
- Remembering your role: If you’re caring for a loved one, it can be difficult to separate what your duties as a caregiver are from that of a child, spouse, or friend.
- Demands of self: Many caregivers place an unreasonable burden on themselves, seeing care as their exclusive responsibility and foregoing help. This may also come from family members who place these kinds of demands on a caregiver, leading to a disregard for responsibilities to yourself.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
Your health is just as important as those you’re providing care for, no matter if it’s in the home or in hospice, you need to take care of yourself. Part of preventing exhaustion and burnout as a caregiver is knowing the signs:
Burnout Prevention Strategies
The emotional and physical demands of being a caregiver can wear down anyone, no matter their resilience and persistence. Feeling the signs of burnout is not a sign of weakness, it just means you need some self-care. There is a wide range of resources and tools available to help caregivers navigate burnout and bounce back so they can go on doing what they love and helping those in need:
- Accept help: Don’t be afraid to talk about how you feel and your frustrations with a trusted friend or loved one. Also, be prepared to discuss how they can help you through it. This is especially important if you’re caring for a loved one and there are other family members around. Ask them for help or accept it when it’s offered.
- Set realistic goals: Remember what you can and cannot do, and break down larger duties into smaller and more manageable tasks. Remember you can’t do everything and it’s ok to decline tasks that are too demanding.
- Connect with others: Look for caregiver resources and befriend other caregivers. It can be a relief to talk with someone or read literature on people going through the same experiences as you. This is also a way to sharpen skills related to your role by finding classes that teach caregiving services and can help you find them easier to manage.
- See your doctor: Again, your health is important too. If there are physical signs associated with burnout, see your doctor and let them know you’re a caregiver.
- Join a support group: Much like befriending other caregivers, a support group can give you shoulders to rely on and to discuss what is stressing you to the point of burnout. They can also provide problem-solving strategies for difficult situations and encouragement. A little positivity from someone you can relate to goes a long way.
Caregiver Support Group and Caregiving Health
Fatigue from being a caregiver is more common than you think and it’s important to remember that you’re not alone, your health matters, and how important your caregiving is. Burnout often gives someone the impression of being isolated, frustrated, and even depressed, which is why it’s so important to remember these things and to seek support if showing the signs.
We at Villageplan take steps and provide resources to our caregivers to avoid or recover from burnout. If you can relate to the signs and symptoms listed below, we strongly encourage you to read through the support materials and contact us for the support you need.