Whether you’re a caregiver yourself, or have one in your life, it’s important to understand that caregiving is at its best when the caregiver also takes care of themselves.
Being concerned with another person’s constant care can make it difficult to check in with your own health. You might lose track of your health or even feel that it’s selfish to take time for yourself. However, we all need some level of care. To make sure you’re able to give others the best care possible, you must take care of yourself first.
Without proper self care, caregiver burnout signs and symptoms can arise. Some are more alarming than others. Here is a guide to help you know what to look out for as a caregiver.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
Over time, a caregiver can become overwhelmed physically, emotionally, and mentally. They may feel exhausted from the stress of caring for another, leading to feeling a lack of support or appreciation for the work they’re doing.
As a caregiver, you can detect warning signs of burnout by taking quiet moments out of your day to check in with yourself. Notice how you feel physically and emotionally. If you notice consistent difficult feelings, you’ll want to pay extra attention to these areas as they could be signs of caregiver burnout. If you’re not sure where to start, try a self-assessment test.
Left unchecked, burnout can lead to physical and mental illness for caregivers and it can impact the way they care for others, potentially harming the care recipients in the process.
Who is at Risk of Caregiver Burnout?
Caregivers report worse health regardless of their income, marital status, and whether they had a choice to provide care. According to AARP, caregiver self-rated health has declined throughout the past five years. One in five caregivers consider their health to be fair or poor.
Those who more often self-rate as being in fair or poor health include caregivers who live with their care recipient, those in high-intensity caregiving situations, and primary caregivers.
Caregiver depression and perceived burden increase as the care receiver’s functional status declines. Caregivers who work with patients of dementia are at higher risk for burnout. Studies show that 30% to 40% of dementia caregivers suffer from depression and emotional stress.
Symptoms to Pay Attention To
Burnout affects more than your state of mind. It can lead to physical health issues and your mental health.
Caregiver burnout can bring about physical symptoms. If you notice frequently feeling any of the following, pay attention to the signals your body is sending you about the care you need:
- Body aches
- Frequent headaches
- Changes in appetite
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling sick often
Caregiver burnout can also cause changes to your mental health. The following symptoms of burnout can be signs of deeper anxiety or depression:
- Frequent worrying
- Easily irritated
- Feeling angry and argumentative
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling hopeless
- Isolating yourself
- Loss of interest in activities you enjoy
- Loss of motivation
These symptoms, left unchecked, can lead to more serious stress disorders, such as compassion fatigue. Beyond feeling overwhelmed, compassion fatigue causes a secondary traumatic stress disorder from empathizing with the suffering and trauma of the care recipient. In addition to other health issues, a caretaker may lose the ability to empathize and have compassion for others, halting their ability to do their job well.
Ways to Prevent Burnout
As burnout is often caused by feeling overwhelmed and alone in your struggles, many of the ways to prevent it are based around seeking support and creating more time for yourself.
Basic Health Needs
Provide yourself with a strong foundation. Get enough sleep, stay hydrated, eat nutrient-rich foods, stretch and exercise. If you’re struggling in any of these areas, it may be a sign you need some additional support.
Make Time for You
Create moments of calm and moments of joy throughout each day. Even 5-minute breaks can give you a chance to check in with yourself. Notice your feelings and physical sensations.
If you can take more time, take an evening to connect with friends or dive into your hobbies. Even going on a walk can help to give you a break and clear your mind.
Remember that you’re not alone. Consider these various ways to ask for help:
- Delegate certain caretaking tasks to friends, family, or professionals.
- Set boundaries around requests made to you, allowing yourself to say no when possible.
- Open up to a trusted friend or family member about how you’re feeling.
- Find a support group to share with other caregivers.
- Talk to a therapist about what you’re experiencing.
- See your doctor when you notice you’re not feeling well, and keep regular check-up appointments.
Pay Attention to Caregiver Burnout Signs
Caregivers can’t provide quality care if they don’t first care for themselves. Having awareness of the sometimes invisible health concerns they may experience is the first step in preventing more serious complications. Preventing caregiver burnout helps to maintain both the health of the caregiver and the quality of the care they provide.
Give us a call today to learn more.