For many of us, the members of our family are the people we value most in life, and we would do anything to protect and care for them. Perhaps you have taken on a caretaker role for your loved one, whether unexpectedly or planned. Your willingness to help may be fueled by your love and good intention, but for many, the role of caregiver can quickly become overwhelming. Much rests on the shoulders of a caregiver – not only with managing household duties like cleaning, cooking, and laundry – but also ensuring medication is handled correctly and personal hygiene needs are met. Even more, caregivers are often looked upon for emotional support and companionship.
If you are a caregiver, it’s vital to protect yourself from the toll the role can take on your own health. The stress felt can lead to “Caregiver Burnout”, a condition described by the Cleveland Clinic as a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. It may be accompanied by a change in attitude, from a positive and caring outlook to one of negativity and unconcern. Burnout occurs when caregivers try to do more than they are physically or financially able and don’t get the help they need. A lack of control, unreasonable demands, and unrealistic expectations can all attribute to burnout.
Some warning signs of caregiver burnout include:
- Anger or frustration toward the person you’re caring for
- Denial about the severity of your loved one’s condition
- Physical health problems such as insomnia, weight gain, and fatigue
- Inability to concentrate
- Social isolation and withdrawal
If you are feeling the effects of burnout, you’re not alone. According to a November 2021 study by Genworth, 42 percent of family caregivers experience depression, mood swings, or resentment as a result of their caretaking. Thirty percent reported sleep deprivation, and 43 percent reported the demands of the role have negatively impacted their relationship with their spouse or partner. Whether you are already experiencing the effects of burnout or are seeking preventative measures to avoid it, there are several ways to reduce stress and practice self-care.
Ways to Reduce Caregiver Stress
Be Kind To Yourself – Recognize that being a caregiver can be difficult. Release any guilt when it comes to taking time for your own self-care. Even though you may feel consumed with taking care of another’s health, be sure to not neglect your own. Go to the doctor when needed, get routine exams, and make exercise, sleep, and healthy eating a priority. Taking care of yourself will only increase the level of care you can provide to your loved one.
Seek Support – Being a caregiver can be isolating, which can lead to feelings of depression and helplessness. Seek support and understanding from other caregivers by attending a support group or connect with friends to help boost your mood. Remember – you are not in this alone!
Use Technology – You can simplify your life by taking advantage of available technology. Instead of making phone calls or sending individual emails, you can streamline communication with extended family and friends by keeping them up-to-date on your loved one’s health by using websites like CaringBridge or PostHope. Various apps are available to help keep track of medical history and set medication reminders. And online sources, such as the U.S. Administration on Aging’s “Eldercare Locator”, are available to connect you with local resources.
Get Help – Acknowledge that you will need a break now and then. If your loved one requires 24/7 care, find a volunteer to help out and give you time to do something you love. Longer breaks can be arranged by utilizing a paid service like Home Care or Respite Care. These services allow the caregiver to take a vacation or attend a function without worrying about their loved one. Respite care in a residential facility can be provided for just an overnight stay or for as long as a few weeks. In-home care can be provided by service professionals, such as those from Snyder Village Home Care.
Deb Albertson, Director of Snyder Village Home Care, understands the demands caregiving can bring. “Taking care of a loved one who has dementia, physical disabilities, or other age-related conditions makes demands on your time, energy, and emotions that can easily become overwhelming,” she explains. “Caregiving can tax your patience and foster fatigue, frustration, and guilt, becoming a grueling grind that takes a heavy toll on the body and mind. That’s why it’s so important to watch for signs of caregiver burnout and take proactive steps to deal with it before it spirals out of control.” Deb reiterates the importance of asking for help and taking time for yourself. “You can ask a professional home care agency to help,” she says. The agency can sit with your loved one, giving you the opportunity to go shopping or to a doctor appointment.” For information on Snyder Village Home Care services, call (309) 367-2300 or visit www.snydervillage.com.
Taking on the role of caregiver can be a selfless, rewarding phase of life. By practicing self-awareness and self-care, you can avoid burnout and instead provide a healthy, positive experience for both you and your loved one.
Snyder Village in Metamora is a Life Plan Community that offers independent living, assisted living, memory care programs, skilled nursing care, therapy, and home care. For more information, call (309) 367-4300 or visit www.snydervillage.com.