Caregiver Burnout

August 11, 2020
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Taking care of a loved one is the ultimate act of love. First, you find out someone you love more than life itself has a serious health condition. Then, you try to make peace with this new reality. You keep telling yourself that your loved one will beat the odds and that it’s good that you’re there to help them and make their life as comfortable as possible.

From the moment you wake up until you go to bed at night — if you go to bed at all — you check up on them, make them meals, fluff pillows, read to them, give them medications, help them with personal hygiene. Day in and day out, they are your reason for living. But, what happens when it all becomes too much?

While you may feel like you’re not a priority due to the circumstances, failing to recognize symptoms of caregiver burnout could have a detrimental effect on your health — physically and mentally. So, what is caregiver burnout? How do you know if you have it? And, what can you do to make things better for yourself and for your family?

What is caregiver burnout?

Caregiver burnout is the term used to describe when a person is experiencing physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion from being somebody else’s primary caregiver. You feel drained, exhausted, and even your mood changes — from an always-willing-to-help attitude to becoming annoyed, angry, or despondent. To add insult to injury, caregiver burnout often makes a person feel guilty for having negative feelings about their caregiving duties.

Being a caregiver often takes an emotional toll — especially when you’re caring for someone who’s near and dear to you. However, there are additional factors that can cause you to burnout, such as placing unreasonable burdens on yourself. This includes providing around-the-clock care, draining your financial resources, and/or neglecting to take care of yourself.

What is compassion fatigue?

As if caregiver burnout weren’t bad enough, those who experience it may also feel compassion fatigue. This is an emotional response to being constantly exposed to someone else’s suffering. Compassion fatigue leaves you feeling angry at the illness that’s affecting your loved one’s health, and it can cause you to feel isolated, demoralized, and can result in sleep disturbances.

Signs of Caregiver Burnout

The symptoms of compassion fatigue appear gradually, and they worsen over time as you don’t get any respite from your caregiving responsibilities. Common signs include:

  • Losing interest in activities you previously enjoyed
  • Irritability
  • Changes in appetite
  • Getting sick frequently
  • Withdrawing from friends and other family members
  • Feeling physically and emotionally exhausted

How to Prevent Caregiver Burnout

There are several things you can do to prevent caregiver burnout. These options can also help alleviate the burden if you’re already feeling overwhelmed.

1. Be Realistic

Be honest with yourself about all aspects regarding your caregiving duties. If your loved one’s disease is progressive or terminal, they will need constant care, and you will need a break every now and then — to eat, shower, sleep, or even to take some time to decompress.

2. Accept What You’re Feeling

It’s ok to feel scared, overwhelmed, frustrated, or resentful. This doesn’t mean you care for your loved one any less. In order to preserve your mental health, you have to be honest about how you’re feeling, acknowledge how you feel, and recognize that it makes you human.

3. Know Your Limits

If you have additional responsibilities, such as caring for children, cleaning your home, or buying groceries, at some point, you’ll have to recognize that there’s only one of you and too much to do. If your loved one needs more specialized attention — such as requiring g-tube feedings, intravenous medications, or monitoring their breathing — you may not be able to do it all on your own.

4. Get Help

Recognize that you need someone to help you take care of your loved one — not because you can’t do it on your own, but because it’s unreasonable to expect you to care for that person’s needs 24/7. Find someone you trust, such as another family member or a professional caregiver.

5. Look for Coping Mechanisms

These will vary from person to person. Once you have enlisted someone to help you, look for things you know will make you feel better. This could be watching your favorite TV show, taking regular naps, talking to a therapist, or going for daily walks.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care in Florida

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of professionals at Care Options for Kids are here to help.

Our home care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you or a loved one are considering Pediatric Home Health Care Services in Florida, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.