Being a caregiver can be very fulfilling and challenging at the same time. Whether the position comes out of love or obligation, caregiving requires a lot of work. It calls on you to take care of your loved one, educate yourself about serious illnesses, keep up with medical appointments, acquire new skills— and still manage to take care of yourself, as well. People caring for an elder or loved one often describe the experience as stressful.
Does this sound familiar? If so, you may be experiencing caregiver burnout.
Caregiver burnout is a state of mental, emotional and physical exhaustion. This can happen when a caregiver does more than he or she can manage, or if help and support aren’t available. It is very common to become so focused in looking after others that you begin to neglect your own physical, emotional, and mental health. Many have reported feeling guilt or shame when they spend time on themselves. It’s normal to want to offer your loved one all your time and the best care possible, but it’s also important to recognize the signs that you’re overwhelmed and exhausted.
Being aware of the early signs of burnout can help protect your health and your ability to provide good and effective care. It often starts with feelings of irritability and anger and may also include the following:
- Anxiety about the future
- Difficulty completing everyday tasks
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Weight loss or gain
- Neglecting your own emotional and physical needs
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Feeling as though caregiving is controlling your life
If you recognize any of the warning signs, take steps to get your life back into balance. It is essential to communicate your feelings to your family and doctor. It will only get worse if you ignore them or keep them to yourself. Here are a few steps you can take to avoid caregiver burnout:
- Ask for help from family and friends. Needing help does not mean that you’re a bad caregiver, it simply means you cannot do it all on your own – and no one can do it alone.
- Take breaks. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself, even if it’s for a few hours. Get out of the house. Visit friends. Read a book. Take a long walk. Do something you enjoy.
- Make your own health as important as your loved ones. Exercise, eat well, go to your own doctor’s appointments, and always remember—if you are not healthy, you cannot effectively care for someone else.
- Connect with other caregivers. If your loved one is receiving hospice care, ask your hospice provider about local resources. There are support groups that allow you to share your frustrations and joys with others who are in your situation.
Recognize the signs of burnout and take steps to ensure you maintain your happiness so you can be a better caregiver.
Serenity Hospice is a locally owned and operated company serving the Coachella Valley since 2007. For more information please call (760) 325.8718 or visit www.serenityhospiceps.com.