Preventing Caregiver Burnout
Preventing Caregiver Burnout

The need for care tends to direct our attention to the individual being cared for and not always the person taking care of them.  Caregivers are those who help another individual that needs medical and personal needs.  In most cases, those who take on this role have a personal relationship with the person in need and are unpaid healthcare workers. 

The daily responsibility consists of preparing meals for the patient, running errands, bathing, and performing medical tasks such as issuing medication or setting up medical equipment like tubes for feeding.  Given this shortlist of duties which does not include everything that a caregiver takes on, it is no surprise that some can suffer from caregiver burnout.  Elite Care at Home offers the best home health services in South Florida, serving the Miami-Dade, Broward County, and Monroe County areas.  Our professional caregivers are ready to assist you and your family.

Taking care of a family member or close friend that is ill can have some rewards but can also be exhausting and stressful.  It can drain a person emotionally, physically, and mentally.  Their social life can be limited on top of the financial strain caused by providing for another human being.  Burnout occurs when the stress and burden become overwhelming and hurts the caregiver’s life and health.  (1)

Causes of Caregiver Burnout

One of the leading causes and contributors of stress that leads to caregiver stress is the lack of practicing self-care while taking care of someone else.  (2).  The state of emotional exhaustion during burnout results from failure, wearing out, or the feeling of being used up due to the number of demands.  There are other causes of caregiver stress that include:

  • Emotional Demands resulting from your loved one’s condition.  A high level of physical and emotional care is needed.  You feel that there is no way for you to make them “well.”

  • Conflicting Demands.  As a caregiver, you can quickly become overwhelmed by trying to meet the needs of everyone around you.  If you are married, you want to take care of your spouse’s needs and your children.  Your employer and co-workers pose needs upon you as well.  You also have needs.

  • Workload.  The acting of jugging everything to provide for your significant other, providing your household, and fulfilling your duties at work makes for a heavy workload and burden.

  • Ambiguity of Roles.  You want to help, but there are times when your specific role and responsibility are unclear in comparison to others.

  • No privacy.  The need for some peace or alone time can seem out of reach when people come in and out of your home to perform or assist with medical procedures and other facets of caregiving.

  • Conflicts with Policy and Procedure.  In the process of taking care of your loved one, there will be necessary policies and procedures to follow.  Conflicts can prevent professional caregivers from performing what they believe are appropriate actions to care for the individual, while family caregivers may not receive requested services.

What Are the Symptoms of Caregiving Fatigue?

There are signs to look out for if you suspect you or someone you know may be suffering from caregiver stress or caregiver burnout.  When the stress of caregiving is ignored or left untreated, it can severely affect your health, relationships, and state of mind, leading to burnout.  (3)  Some common symptoms of caregiver stress are:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Fatigue or feeling run down
  • Problems sleeping
  • Developing new health problems or the worsening of an existing condition
  • Feelings of resentfulness
  • Overreactions to small problems
  • Problems concentrating
  • Neglecting responsibilities
  • Losing interest and cutting back on leisure activities
  • An increase in drinking, smoking and eating

Caregivers burnout symptoms are comparable to the signs of caregiver stress but have some variations.

  • You notice a significant change in your energy levels.
  • Your immune system may seem weakened as you notice you get sick more often.
  • Constant feeling of exhaustion even after sleeping.
  • Neglecting your own needs because of your workload or simply a loss of interest.
  • Your life revolves around caregiving, but you are left unsatisfied.
  • Issues relaxing
  • Growing impatient and irritable with your loved one
  • Experiencing feelings of helplessness and hopelessness

Dealing with Caregiver Stress

The most resilient person can be overcome by the emotional and physical demands brought on by caregiving.  It is imperative to utilize the different available resources and tools that can help you provide for your loved one.  It is not just cliché; if you can’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for anyone else.  (4)

Here are some ways to help you manage stress:

Accept and Seek Help. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and accept it.  You can draft a list of ways others can help you and let them volunteer and pick what they would like to do.  A family member or friend may offer to take your loved one for a walk or watch them for you a couple of times a week. The benefits of this family support can be immeasurable. Someone else may be able to run an errand for you, like go shopping or pick up your groceries.  This can free up some of your time for a bit of self-care or take care of your personal needs.

Focus on What You Can Do. 

There is no such thing as a perfect caregiver.  Be assured that you are doing the best you can and making the best possible decisions for the health of your loved one. You can learn as you go, read books and improve your caregiving skills with the support of family and other community resources.

Set Realistic Goals and Say No. 

Break larger tasks into smaller steps.  Establish a daily routine and prioritize your duties.  Don’t be afraid to decline requests that are too draining.

Connect to Resources. 

Search for caregiving resources in your area.  Lots of communities have classes to educate you on your loved one’s condition.  Some caregiving services that can be beneficial to you are transportation, meal delivery, or housekeeping.

Support Groups. 

Joining a support group can be helpful because it links you to others or is in the same position as you.  You can receive encouragement and resolutions for complicated tasks that you may be facing.  A support group is also an excellent place to socialize and build friendships.

Social Support. 

In addition to support groups, you should keep in touch with family and friends regularly.  Your loved ones can provide non-judgmental emotional support which has longer term benefits that you would not otherwise expect.

Personal Health Goals. 

This is a part of developing healthy self-care habits.  Establish a good sleep routine, stay physically active, and maintain a healthy diet.

See Your Doctor. 

Get recommended vaccinations and screenings.  Make your doctor aware that you are a caregiver and share concerns and symptoms that you are experiencing.

Preventing Caregiver Burnout

The strategies mentioned above are a great way to manage existing stress and can be used to prevent or lessen it.  Here are some additional suggestions that can assist with avoiding caregiver burnout before it starts.  (5)

Give Yourself a Break Through Respite Care. 

As a caregiver, you may get wrapped up in the long list of daily duties and forget to take a break.  Respite care, or a break, can be beneficial to you and your loved one. Elite Care at Home offers short or long term respite care for caregivers when they need it most.

Schedule Mini Vacations. 

A mini-vacation can be an actual trip to a destination for a period to help cope with the daily stress of caregiver fatigue if you have someone to step in and take over things for a little while.  It can also be mini-breaks or mental health days to do some of the things you enjoy, like meeting up with a friend at a coffee shop, listening to a podcast, or watching your favorite show.

Keep a Journal. 

Writing your thoughts in a journal about your situation and its difficulties can help you get more in touch with your emotions.  According to (University of Rochester Medical Center) a journal is a helpful tool in managing your mental health.  Journaling can help you to manage anxiety, reduce stress, and deal with depression.  (6)

Learn How to Let Go. 

It can be easy to get worked up over minor things.  When faced with an issue, ask yourself how important it is and if it matters.  This simple step can save you from a lot of headaches and stress. 

“When we feel content with how our life is unfolding, it’s easier to let go and be open to whatever turns up next for us.” Abigail Brenner, M.D., Psychology Today) (7)

Burnout or Depression

The suggested strategies mentioned are an excellent place to start to alleviate the wear and tear caused by burnout. Still, before you begin a new health plan, you mustn’t confuse caregiver burnout with depression.  Some of the symptoms that are typical in burnout that also occur in depression are

  • extreme exhaustion
  • feeling down, and
  • a reduction in performance.

Misdiagnosing yourself can lead to the wrong treatment, which would make matters worse instead of better.  Taking a vacation or some time off work can help someone suffering but burnout but will not be beneficial to an individual battling depression.  In burnout, most of the issues are related to work, but in depression, negative thoughts and feelings are not limited to work but include other areas of your life (8).  Some typical symptoms of depression are:

  • low self-esteem
  • hopelessness and
  • suicidal thoughts and tendencies.

Diagnosing Burnout

The many questionnaires for self-assessment are not conclusive because there is no generally accepted definition of burnout.  It is not proven that questionnaires can accurately measure burnout and distinguish it from other illnesses.  Determining whether you are suffering from caregiver burnout should not be a self-diagnosis because the symptoms related to burnout can also be caused by other conditions, like mental or psychosomatic illnesses.  Examples of this type of illness that share the same symptoms are depression, anxiety order, and chronic fatigue syndrome.  You must consider these other possibilities for signs you are experiencing and speak with a medical doctor to receive a proper diagnosis.  (8)

If you are experiencing caregiver burnout, contact us today at (305) 231-0555!  We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We have two local offices in Miami Lakes that serves our community in Miami-Dade County and Monroe County, and an office in Miramar that services clients in the Broward County community.   We can answer questions you may have about our services, and we welcome you to explore our offerings further.

References

  1. (Healthline) https://www.healthline.com/health/health-caregiver-burnout
  2. (John Hopkins) https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/about/community_health/johns-hopkins-bayview/services/called_to_care/causes_symptoms_caregiver_burnout.html
  3. (Help Guide) https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/caregiver-stress-and-burnout.htm
  4. (Mayo Clinic) https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/caregiver-stress/art-20044784
  5. (Guide Posts) https://www.guideposts.org/caregiving/resource-center/9-suggestions-for-preventing-caregiver-burnout?gclid=CjwKCAjwpMOIBhBAEiwAy5M6YOmR4cMdeaxITz6Bja9qlk_-mUGshscV0LWrwaz0guNuZ8cz2HLLOxoCyOwQAvD_BwE
  6. (University of Rochester Medical Center) – https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentID=4552&ContentTypeID=1
  7. (Psychology Today) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-flux/202012/5-reasons-why-its-important-let-go-the-past
  8. (NCBI) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279286/