Signs of Caregiver Burnout & How to Prevent It
Love, obligation or maybe out of doing what’s right, you may be one of more than 40 million adults taking care of an elderly, chronically ill, or a disabled loved one with caregiver burnout, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance. In fact, 70 percent of family caretakers take care of one person over 65, while 15.7 million adult family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia’s. 45% of those caring for spouse or parent reported stress compared with 35% for another relative.
As a senior advisor at North Star Senior Advisors, I have met and spoke to numerous individuals struggling to care for a family member. Several times a day, we hear the sacrifice they endure, and while it is a wonderful thing to be able to help care for mom or dad at home where they feel most comfortable, in some cases, this can become strenuous on the family caregiver as they may get pulled away from other responsibilities.
You may be on the road to caregiver burnout. It’s not taken lightly as psychologists define it as “a debilitating psychological condition brought about by unrelieved stress.” By the time most caregivers suspect burnout, they’re already suffering myriad symptoms.
In addition to coping with a loved one’s illness, you may also deal with financial pressures, changes in family dynamics, and general disruption in family life. It’s a recipe for caregiver burnout that would negatively affect anyone’s ability to provide good care and potentially place the caregiver’s health at risk.
If you know what caregiver burnout is or know what the signs look like, you can protect yourself from burning the candle at both ends.
Every day we help families looking for advice and support with their loved ones. We are truly grateful to offer that support and guidance whether it is options for senior living or resources available to them.
11 Warning Signs of Caregiver Burnout
- Anxiety, depression, irritability.
- Feeling tired and run down.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Overreacting to minor nuisances, irritable or argumentative with the person you’re caring for and/or with others
- Headaches, stomachaches, and new or worsening health problems
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Changes in eating habits; weight loss or gain
- A feeling of hopelessness
- Withdrawing from, or losing interest in, activities you once enjoyed
- Neglecting your own physical and emotional needs
- Feeling like your life is controlled by caregiving
Caregiver Burnout Prevention
Now that you know what to look for, here are some tips to help you pre-empt caregiver burnout.
- Ask for help! Needing help doesn’t make you a bad caregiver. It simply means you can’t do it alone (no one should do it alone). North Star is here for you and can provide community resources for caregivers.
- Take breaks. Give yourself permission to get out of the house. Visit with friends. Pamper yourself with a massage. Take a long bath.
- Take care of yourself! Don’t skip your own doctor’s appointments because you’re too busy. Exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep at night.
- Try to get up 15 minutes earlier to use the time just for you. Sit with your coffee or tea and enjoy it. Journal about your struggles and feelings. Meditate, pray, stretch. . . . or simply do what you like to do.
- Make a list of your daily activities and tasks and see if you can delegate any of them. Perhaps your spouse can make dinner twice or a week or maybe a friend or relative can run errands. People often want to help—you just have to ask!
- Check into family-leave benefits from your place of work. Take a huge weight off your shoulders by giving you more hours in your day.
- If an opportunity comes along for a brief getaway for you, consider assisted living respite care for your loved one. Assisted living offers short-term stay for your loved one (up to 30 days) to relieve family members or other persons who are caregivers. North Star can guide you to assisted living respite stays near you!
North Star Senior Advisors is a fan of dementia advocate, Rachael Wonderlin author of Dementia by Day. In one of her online courses, she discusses, “How to Help with Caregiver Guilt”. We’ve learned that caregiver guilt is the number one reason prospects change their minds to move their loved one into a senior living community. They feel like their loved one is not ready to move or their loved one made them promise to to never move them into an assisted living community. We also hear that families try to keep their loved ones in their own home with the goal to care for them forever.
Ultimately keeping an elderly person home would be ideal for any senior and their loved ones. If the family can afford in-home care 24/7 then why not allow their senior loved one’s age in place at home? This is not always the norm though. Preparing a family member to decide if an assisted living is the right place can be one of the hardest things to decide. As your advocate, North Star Senior Advisors understands where our clients are coming from and recognizes that having guilt is a normal emotion. Choosing an assisted living or having the thought that you are “putting” your loved one away forever is very emotional.
When is it the best time to make this transition happen?
You may consider moving your loved one into an assisted living community if you’re experiencing caregiver burnout as mentioned above. If you are able to care for your loved one longer, that is great too! However, it’s completely normal to feel guilty but you also don’t want to wait until your elderly loved one is no longer eligible to reside in a senior living community. Yes, that is correct. A person must meet criteria in order to qualify to live in an assisted living community. Terrible falls or wounds from staying in bed or sitting in a chair all day can contribute to not qualifying for an assisted living facility. If your elderly loved one has Dementia, they may wander or elope from home and police may be called. You definitely want to consider the “what if’s” prior to them happening. These are just a few scenarios that can occur.
Being able to help families in a time of great stress by lending them a listening ear is what we do! Our Senior Living Advisors work hard to reassure family members that moving your loved one into an assisted living is the right decision for several reasons such as, your loved one is in a safe place to live, is getting socialization from staff and other residents, has assistance with care so you are no longer suffering from caregiver burn out, and of course the nutritious meals the communities serve. Unfortunately, we face a lot of social stigmas when it comes to “placing” our loved ones in a senior living facility. Multiple family members or friends can form different opinions on the power of attorney’s (POA’s) decision. This is why we are patient with you, guide you through the process of selecting an assisted living or memory care community as well as all the way through the transition. It’s desirable for us to smoothly guide you as well as educate in order to not add additional stress you are already experiencing.
Furthermore, Rachael Wonderlin states: “The best caregivers out there are caregivers that aren’t stressed to the bone. They’ve had time to breathe, time to relax, and time to themselves. Those caregivers are ones that have hired help in the home or have moved their loved ones to a caring community. I’ve never seen a more-stressed individual than someone who is caring for a loved one, at their house, as the sole caregiver, all the time. It’s never going to be a healthy situation. Even if they are doing an amazing job for their loved one living with dementia, they are definitely not taking the best care of themselves.”
If you’re not ready to relocate your loved one to a senior living community, you can consider other resources such as adult day care, a senior center, private duty in-home care or respite stays at an assisted living communities. Caregivers should not get to a point of no return or have that terrible burn out feeling. Even if you do the steps above to help prevent caregiver burn-out, you may get to a point that those tips no longer work. You don’t want to resent your elderly loved one or cause added health issues for yourself. Consider joining a support group or contact us to discuss options!
Guilt can be very overwhelming for a family member, but never feel guilty if you’re considering an assisted living for your loved one’s best interest. It’s essential for caregivers to not feel alone and know that may be a great decision for not only their loved ones but for themselves. Listening and guiding is what we do!
Visit northstarsa.com for more information or call us at 407-796-1582 to speak with an experienced senior advisor today. We are here for you.