How to Recognize You Have Caregiver Burnout
In the United States, a significant portion of the senior population utilizes the assistance of a caregiver. In most cases, these seniors are provided caregiving services by their spouses or adult children. These family members provide caregiving services at no charge. Regardless of how well-intentioned and dedicated these caregivers can be, caregiver burnout is a very real possibility. In this article, we present an overview of how to recognize caregiver burnout.
Caregiver Burnout Can Be Sneaky
In many instances, burnout actually sneaks up on a caregiver. Many caregivers do not recognize the cumulative effects of the burden they are carrying assisting their loved ones. Many caregivers go through their routines on something of an autopilot. As a consequence, they really are not in touch with what is going on emotionally or physically in their own lives.
Eight Signs of Caregiver Burnout
Because of the propensity of burnout to sneak up on a caregiver, if you are providing caregiving services, you should be aware of the more commonplace signs associated with assisting a senior or another individual in need of care. There are nine more commonplace signs associated with caregiver burnout:
- Unrelenting fatigue
- Frequent illness
- Unpredictable anger
- Loss of interest
- Loss of focus
- Compassion fatigue
- Lapses in self-care
Unrelenting fatigue – being tired all the time for no explainable reason – is a key sign that you are suffering from caregiver fatigue. If you are suffering from pervasive fatigue, you should consult with your primary care physician. You need to ensure that the fatigue you suffer is not a symptom of some illness or condition. If medical problems are excluded, you may have narrowed down the cause of your fatigue to caregiver burnout.
The strength of your immune system is an excellent measure of your general or overall health. A red flag that there may be issues with your immune system includes frequent headaches, flu, bacterial infections, or other illnesses more often than you have in the past. If this is a new pattern for you, your immune system may be compromised by stress, sleep deprivation, or depression. This may be occurring because of caregiver stress. Your body is telling you it is time to make some changes in your life.
If you find yourself snapping at people around you, you may have exceeded your personal capacity for stress. You may be experiencing caregiver burnout.
Not everyone lashes out when they’re under a lot of pressure. In other words, another sign of potential caregiver burnout is withdrawal or drawing inward and avoiding other people. You don’t want to see friends, family members, or anyone else. You may not complain about your life being taken over by caregiving work. However, you don’t find or seek out time with others either.
Depression is a very real indication that you are afflicted with caregiver burnout. Indications that you might be suffering from depression associated with caregiver burnout include:
- Loss of pleasure in activities
- Appetite changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide
If you feel you are suffering from caregiver burnout-rooted depression, you are wise to seek professional support and assistance.
Loss of Interest
Another indicator that you may be suffering from caregiver burnout is a loss of interest. This typically is exhibited in a lack of interest in things that you once enjoyed. This loss of interest does not stem from time limitations that may exist because of your caregiving responsibilities. Rather, it extends from that and is a broader loss of interest.
Loss of Focus
On a somewhat related note, a sign of possible caregiver burnout is a loss of focus. For example, you may lose your focus when it comes to providing caregiving assistance. You may lose your focus in regard to other areas of your life as well.
A caregiver can become so overwhelmed by the burden of providing assistance to another that a person loses a level of concern for the care recipient’s physical and emotional well-being. Caregiver burnout is exhibited in a lack of true compassion for the person to whom assistance is being provided.
Lapses in Self-Care
Yet another commonplace sign of caregiver burnout is a lack of self-care. A caregiver fails to do what he or she needs to do to maintain a balanced, healthy life. This can include everything from maintaining physical to mental and emotional wellness.
There are six common signs that you have not engaged in proper self-care. These are:
- Skip or neglect basic needs
- Always on autopilot
- Always doing something for someone else
- Lost touch with family
- Lost touch with friends
- Can not remember the last time you had fun
- Do not feel like yourself anymore
- Seek Professional Support
If you really do feel overwhelmed by your caregiving responsibilities, if you really do think you are dealing with caregiver burnout, you might want to consider enlisting the professional support of an experienced counselor or therapist. If you take this step, you are following a course taken by many other caretakers who have reached the same juncture that you are in.
In addition to one-on-one counseling, keep in mind that there are also support groups in many communities available to individuals like you that provide caregiving assistance to an aging family member or another loved one. These support groups can prove invaluable to a person who is at a point where he or she is experiencing caregiver burnout. Being around similarly situated people can help put your own situation in perspective and provide insights into how you can manage caregiver burnout and other issues.
Finally, keep in mind that you may not be able to continue caregiving alone. Perhaps there is a family member that can share part of that role. If not, and if finances permit, retaining the services of a home care aide might be an alternative to consider, at least for a period of time to permit you some spacer from the overall caregiving process.