Caregiver burnout is a condition that manifests as exhaustion, anger, rage, or guilt resulting from caring for a chronically ill or disabled person without respite. Sometimes, caregivers get so invested in looking after a loved one, that they get overwhelmed and tend to neglect their own health. The three most common causes of caregiver burnout are: continuously performing caregiving tasks, self-inflicted pressure and lack of adequate rest/sleep. When caregivers forego the physical and mental care they need themselves, burnout is inevitable.
How would you know if you are experiencing caregiver burnout?
You could be experiencing caregiver burnout if you have the following symptoms:
Physical symptoms: continuous exhaustion, body aches and headaches, extreme changes in appetite, frequent bouts of illnesses like the flu and other infections.
Emotional symptoms: hopelessness, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, social withdrawal.
How do you avoid caregiver burnout?
Here are 5 great tips to help you avoid caregiver burnout:
Take a break - ask friends and family for help. Spend some time on yourself. Do something you enjoy, or get some much needed rest. Take advantage of government programs offering respite care, adult day care centres, provincially funded personal support workers, and even time off from work.
Prioritize and organize - make a list of your priorities and learn to say "no" to things that don't really matter. You can't do everything. Organize your space and time. Living in an organized space will save you time and energy. Keep a diary or calendar to organize your time, and make sure you don't bite off more than you can chew.
Work smarter, not harder - take advantage of technology. Keeping friends and family up to date on your loved one's situation can be tiring and time consuming. Use a website like CaringBridge to communicate with a large number of people without compromising your loved one's privacy. Use an Online Planner to help you coordinate and share caregiving tasks with others.
Take care of yourself - pay attention to your own needs, physical and emotional. Do your best to stay hydrated, eat a balanced diet, exercise and establish a sleep routine. Try taking up a new hobby that could serve as a stress outlet. Seek professional counselling services if you feel the need.
Join a support group - if you feel like you’re alone and struggling, seek comfort and guidance from a support group. If you can't go in-person, try online support groups or chat services.
As a health care professional, I have always thought of caregivers as "the hidden patients". I make it a point to ask caregivers about their health and feelings. Don’t be scared or shy to share your thoughts with your doctor. Your doctor can perform an evaluation and suggest appropriate resources and solutions. Remember, you can't be a good caregiver if you don't care for yourself first!
As fulfilling as it can be, caregiving comes with certain challenges. At in4MED, we can provide you with strategies and support to make you a happier person and a better caregiver. We will be there for you as your trusted health advocates. As always, feel free to connect with me or leave a comment.
Healthcare Consultant, in4MED
Ontario Caregiver Organization https://ontariocaregiver.ca/
Caregiver resources from Teva https://tevacaregivers.com/
Today's Caregiver https://caregiver.com/
The author of this blog post is a Physician with over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare system as a clinician, researcher and educator. She is passionate about healthcare for older adults and strives to be a resourceful inspiration to caregivers.
*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.