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5 Tell-tale Signs of Caregiver Burnout

Mar 28, 2016

5 Tell-tale Signs of Caregiver Burnout

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Being a Caregiver is a tough job, but it can also be extremely rewarding. The ability to help others live their lives, and assist them with what might seem like menial tasks, can be a pretty big accomplishment to the person who depends on your care.

During work hours, caregivers assist by folding laundry, bathing, and dressing those who they are caring for, and also helping with medications and sometimes transportation. Taking care of others can be an exhausting job, but what happens after work hours? These same tasks can be repeated within their own personal lives when taking care of their family at home and with the responsibilities and challenges throughout the day-to-day may become more than one individual can handle. 

5 Signs of Caregiver Burnout

Caregiver Burnout is "a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude—from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned." Five common symptoms of Caregiver Burnout include:

  1. Exhaustion - This encompasses both physical and emotional exhaustion
    • Physical - Physical exhaustion is much more than just feeling tired. If you are eating more junk food than normal, you find it hard to clear your mind of the fuzziness, or you're unable to have restful sleep, these are some common signs of physical exhaustion. Eating more nutritious meal aids your body during daily activities and also prevents sugar highs and lows from junk food. Eating better during the day can lead to better sleep at night. And you guessed right, restful sleep at night allows your mind to think more clearly during the day to get rid of that groggy feeling.
    • Emotional If you find yourself increasingly depressed, heightened anxiety, or detached from people/activities you once enjoyed, this is an indicator of emotional exhaustion. Being a caregiver is a highly emotional career. You are providing the best care for them, and even though they may not be able to get better, you are not the reason why they aren't. In fact, you might even be slowing the process because of the joy you bring to their life.
  2. Changes in sleep, appetite, and weight - These are some key factors that lead to stress and to other extreme lifestyle changes. Stress is a two-way street when it comes to these symptoms. Either you will sleep too much, eat too much, and gain weight, or you will sleep less, eat less, and lose weight, or you could be a mixture of all three. No matter what combination of these symptoms you’re experiencing, all can lead to other major health problems much bigger than stress.
  3. Heightened stress - Stress takes a toll on the human body. Not only does it cause low energy and headaches, but it also weakens the immune system. If you notice you catch every cold that is going around, or you're staying sick longer than usual, this is your immune system trying to tell you something. Make sure to get at least seven hours of sleep each night, eat a nutritious diet, and keep up-to-date with all medical checkups. Staying in tune with your body, and giving it the fuel it needs can help reduce stress.
  4. The "blues" - No this is not referring to the music genre, we are talking about your emotions here. If you feel an increase in irritability, anxiety, or a feeling of hopelessness or helplessness these are the blues. If you’re finding yourself calm one minute and about to snap the next, or you begin to need help to accomplish small activities these are some signs to be on the lookout for.
  5. Decreased interests - This can be decreased interest in loved ones or work productivity. Decreased interests can lead to depression and feel the blues. Letting this go unmentioned and untreated can lead to a greater risk of changes in your body. Try reconnecting with an old friend, or give a call to a family member to talk about what has been on your mind. Talking with others and releasing what has been weighing you down has been shown to lessen stress and bring you back into a normal routine.

The work of a caregiver is extremely demanding, labor intensive, and also incredibly fulfilling. If you are finding yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, be sure to take a step back and evaluate what is going on in your life. It is harder to focus on others and take care of them when things in your life go awry. Just like the saying goes, “you can’t take care of others if you are unable to take care of yourself.

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Frequently Asked Questions

My mother has Alzheimer's disease, and lately she's been wandering out of the house. What can I do to stop her wandering?

Wandering can bring forth loads of anxiety in any caregiver, but thankfully, there are many things you can do to put a stop to the wandering, or at least decrease it. The first thing you should do is secure your house. Replace locks and doorknobs with ones that are more difficult to open. Put up an alarm system so that if the door were to open, you will be alerted immediately.

At times it’s difficult to prevent this completely, especially with some very persistent individuals. But, there are things you can do to keep the situation from becoming hazardous even if an individual wanders. For example, always make sure the individual has some sort of identification on them. You could also put up a fence as long as it’s a reasonable option.

If you find that the issue of wandering is out of your hands and may result in your loved one getting hurt, it may be time to consider other options. This may include hiring outside help in the form of an in-home health aid or moving your senior to a senior living community that specializes in memory care.

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I take care of my father at home, he was diagnosed with Dementia, but it seems to be worsening, what should I do?

Seek the help of a physician. If Alzheimer’s, a type of dementia, is caught in the early stages, there is a lot of preventative care and treatments that physicians may offer your father to maintain, and even increase, quality of life. Make notes of any of the common Alzheimer's signs or symptoms your father might show.

If you find that taking care of your father is becoming too burdensome on you, consider having other family members help or hire outside help. There are in-home health aides, as well as adult day care centers that have staff specially trained for seniors with Dementia or Alzheimer's.

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