Caregiving is a difficult task. It can be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining to care for another person on a daily basis. As the caregiver, it is important to take steps to ensure that you are taking care of yourself as well as your loved one who needs your help. Caregiver burnout can happen when caregivers neglect their own needs in order to focus solely on the needs of their loved one.
“I feel so guilty when I take just a 10-minute break for myself.”
“I find it hard to get good sleep because I’m worried about my loved one.”
“I get easily upset and always feel overwhelmed.”
These are common expressions of people who are providing support for their loved ones but are forgetting to care for themselves, which could lead to burnout.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
Burnouts in the healthcare industry are not unheard of. A caregiver’s main responsibility includes providing support and service for their patients, or those who rely on them to take care of certain situations involving health. These individuals spend a majority of their time taking care of others which can lead to high levels of stress that eventually lead to depression or anxiety. This condition has been coined “caregiver burnout” because it occurs during periods where people provide services with little rest from work.
Caregiver Burnout Symptoms
Caregiver burnout is a problem that causes physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. Signs of caregiver burnout include:
- feeling overwhelmed or stressed
- having constant, negative thoughts
- taking on unhealthy eating habits
- having problems with sleep
- neglecting your own physical and emotional health
- becoming impatient, irritable, or argumentative
- lacking a social life with friends
- feeling depressed or anxious
- having major headaches or stomachaches
- getting sick more often
- denying your loved one’s medical condition
If you aren’t taking care of yourself, it can be hard to take care of someone else. Proper self-care is important to ensure you stay healthy and have a good mindset to continue to provide the necessary support to others without burning out from exhaustion and stress.
Tips for Preventing Caregiver Burnout
Here are some things you can do to prevent caregiver burnout. Follow this advice to stay healthy and ensure your loved one is getting the support they need.
Take A Break: One of the best ways to combat caregiver stress is to simply take a break. The best way to do this is through respite care. This is a short-term care program that will watch after your elderly loved one while you take a break. It can last for a day or for months depending on how long you are away. This provides a great opportunity for you to take a vacation or have some fun with friends while still providing the care your loved one needs.
Reform Your Environment: When you start to feel overwhelmed, sometimes reforming your environment for only a little bit can ease some of the stress. If you find yourself starting to feel stressed, take a small break. Go on a walk in the park or do some yoga in the backyard. Focus on your breathing to relieve any agitation.
Don’t Feel Guilty: It is completely natural to feel stressed while caring for your loved one. This is a massive task to take on, especially if you are taking it on alone. Do not feel guilty for needing to take a break. If you can, ask a friend or family member that you trust to watch your loved one occasionally. This will not only give you a much-needed break but will also let your loved one socialize with more people. It’s been shown that social interaction could lead to better mental health.
Use Local Resources: Your local Area Agency on Aging can help guide you to caregiver resources in your community. These resources will help you deal with the unique challenges that you’re facing as a family caregiver. Use the Eldercare Locator to connect with your local agency. This resource will help you find a variety of programs and services, including elder law attorneys and transportation assistance.
Join A Support Group: If you feel alone in your struggles, you’ll be able to share stories and learn new ways of coping with the demands that come with caregiving by joining a support group. You may be able to find a support group through a local church, hospital, or on the website of the Well Spouse Association.
Set Realistic Goals: If you are feeling overwhelmed by the demands of caregiving, set realistic goals for yourself. The caregiver stress that comes with trying to do too much can actually lead to more burnout and frustration than if you just took it easy. There is no shame in turning to others for help. Consider hiring an in-home caregiver or see if a family member or friend can take on the duties of caregiving on certain days of the week.
Consult A Professional: Therapists, social workers, and clergy members are trained in helping people cope with caregiver stress. Find someone who specializes in this area and talk to them about your situation, as they may be able to provide you with coping strategies that will help you manage the burden of caregiving.
Resources For Caregivers Experiencing Burnout
Regardless of your stress levels, at some point, there will undoubtedly be a need for an alternative care option to continue providing support. Today, caregivers have new respite care options for times when you need to take a vacation or tend to personal obligations. Follow this list of the most common respite care options for elderly adults.
1. Companion Care
An elder companion provides companionship and supportive care, which includes assistance with preparing meals, light housekeeping, laundry, or grocery shopping.
Companions also spend time talking to the elder about their life experiences or listening to music together. Companions are a great way for elders who have limited mobility to receive socialization without leaving home.
The cost of companion care can range from free services provided by volunteers to $10 or more per hour. Depending on the type of care needed and the time of day, you might be able to find a volunteer to help you with your caregiving duties.
An alternative option is to go through an in-home care agency. An agency will be able to assess your situation, then find you care around your wants and needs.
2. Personal Care Assistants
Personal Care Assistants are a more expensive option than companions, but they have expertise in many areas. For instance, Personal Care Assistants can provide assistance with bathing and hygiene needs as well as dressing or undressing the elder.
A PCA will also help you to plan your day’s activities such as meals, doctor visits, and exercise routines for elders who have difficulty doing this on their own because of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Costs for licensed personal care assistants range anywhere from $15 to $40 on an as-needed basis and $120 to $200 for live-in care. Many offer levels of fees depending on the care needed and accept Medicaid waivers or some insurance.
3. Adult Day Care
Adult Day Care offers a variety of educational, recreational, and social activities for elderly adults. Activities can include arts and crafts, music therapy, pet visits, exercise classes, computer lessons!
A typical day at Adult Day Care will be six hours long including one hour devoted to mealtime. The cost is usually $25-$150 per day.
The major benefit of adult daycare is that it gives caregivers some much-needed relief while providing an opportunity for elders to spend quality time with others who share their same interests and challenges in coping with life changes due to aging-related medical concerns.
4. Respite Care in Assisted Living Communities
Some Assisted Living Communities offer short-term care in the form of respite care. These communities typically offer 24/7 care and include a higher level of medical care.
This option also allows a commitment-free way to check out whether the facility might be a good fit for your loved one in the future. If it ever gets to the point that they need to be moved into a community, this is a great way to trial the community.
Respite Care can vary between $300-$500 each month and is not covered by most insurance policies. This option will allow you time away from providing personal assistance or hands-on supervision.
5. Caregiver Co-op
Co-ops allow those who are providing care to meet with other caregivers in the same position so they can share their experiences.
This is an opportunity for them to get a different view of what everyone else is going through and create friendships that will help them during this difficult time.
Many co-ops offer respite services, meal delivery, housekeeping, or transportation. You should ask your local caregiver community if there’s one near you!
You can talk to neighbors, friends, or family who can work together with you to provide support for your loved one. This will give you occasional breaks to stay healthy.
We know that taking care of a loved one is not always easy, and it can be really hard to do so without burning out. If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed by the responsibilities associated with being a caregiver – now might be time to reach out for help. You don’t have to go through this alone! There are resources available for caregivers experiencing burnout including respite care networks and local support groups.