Over 43.5 million Americans care for older parents, grandparents, spouses, or other loved ones. Most family caregivers are spouses or children. The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming and can take a toll on your health, relationships, and sanity – which can lead to burnout. Burnout is caused by too much long-term stress, which can affect your physical health. Signs of burnout include:
- excessive use of alcohol, tobacco, or sleeping pills
- changes in appetite
- rough treatment of the person whom you are caring for, agitation, impatient
- trouble sleeping, constant exhaustion
- difficulty concentrating
- cutting back on leisure activities
Ignoring the signs of burnout will only make them worse. If you become depressed for more than two weeks, seek help. Signs of depression include feeling worthless, lack of personal hygiene, agitation, and anxiety.
Be sure to get help before you become overwhelmed. To avoid burnout, take care of your own health: avoid tobacco, exercise regularly, and eat well. This will heal your heart and mind.
- Find out as much as you can about your loved one’s health problems and how these will change.
- Make it possible for the older person to remain as independent as possible by installing grab bars and relocating items to lower shelves.
- Ask friends and family to run errands for you or come watch the care receiver so you can take some time for yourself – at least 30 minutes per day. Laughter and relaxation is good for the mind.
- Don’t feel sorry for yourself or blame someone else. Focus on what you can control and make your loved one as comfortable and loved as possible. If they get angry or say hurtful things, remember this is because of the illness. Do not take it personally.
- Keep all of your own doctor visits. Exercise regularly, which boosts your energy level and fights fatigue. Meditate and eat well.
- Join a support group to share your troubles and help others like yourselves
Smith MA, Melinda and Kemp MA, Gina. “Caregiver Stress and Burnout.” Stress. HelpGuide.org, Feb 2015. Web. 8 Mar 2015.
“Tips for Avoiding Caregiver Burnout.” Resources. HealthinAging.org, Mar 2013. Web. 8 Mar 2015.