Case of Caregiver Burnout? It May Be Time for Counseling

Mar 22, 2016

Case of Caregiver Burnout? It May Be Time for Counseling

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A caregiver is a key holder for the physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing of a loved one. However, when balancing both their own needs with the needs of loved ones, it raises the question: Who cares for the caregiver?

When a caregiver transitions from stressed to burned out, they could begin feeling resentful, annoyed, and highly irritable. Those with a strong support system normally handle stress more appropriately, but for those who don’t have trusted friends and family members to confide in could face some serious health risks.

Caregivers risk going through phases of frustration and depression, which are all normal responses to the physical and spiritual toll that caregiving can bring. These feelings are normal and do not mean that the caregiver is inadequate. However, it could lead to a need for the caregiver to speak with a counselor.

Counseling for Caregiver Burnout

When the time comes for the caregiver to be cared for, counseling is one tool that can have a number of positive benefits. Counseling doesn’t need to be a licensed therapist, but rather, caregivers can confide in a supervisor, community group, or family doctor. Counseling teaches caregivers the best means to achieve positive outlooks, but it can also lead caregivers in the right direction if they display more serious signs of burnout.

Essentially, those who understand and address feelings of depression, anxiety, and inadequacy are the best candidates for counseling because one needs to admit that there is a problem before taking necessary steps to improve.

Counseling is also extremely beneficial for those who need a trusting ear to confide in, even if they have a strong support group. Sometimes, having a new and unbiased listener is the best option for your mental health.

Types of Counseling

Based on the severity of caregiver burnout, different counseling methods will be used, but generally speaking, there are three types of counseling:

  1. Professional therapy
  2. Support groups
  3. One-on-one discussions with a friend or family member

Symptoms that can be managed through counseling include:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Frustration
  • Depression
  • Isolation
  • Grief
  • Guilt
  • Loneliness
  • Exhaustion
  • Illness
  • Insomnia or fatigue
  • Weakened immune system
  • Substance abuse
  • Re-emergence of pre-existing or previous illness

It could be time for counseling when caregivers find it difficult to make time for themselves, have trouble managing stress, and have difficulty balancing work and family issues.

The Family Caregiver Alliance has estimated that nearly 20 percent of family caregivers suffer from some form of depression and that over 40 percent of caregivers of Alzheimer's patients suffer from mild to moderate stages of depression during and after extended periods of care.

Counseling can encourage caregivers to develop a solid health care routine such as preparing nutritious meals, engaging in physical activity, and establishing healthy sleep patterns. Ignoring signs of grief, frustration, and anger give emotions the power to build up and potentially turn into something more serious.

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Frequently Asked Questions

My sister has been the primary caregiver for our father for the past year and has recently become apathetic. What can I do?

Apathy in one common sign of compassion fatigue and is common among those who work in the caregiving industry. While it is different than burnout, many of the signs and symptoms are similar. If you are able, try to alleviate some of your sister’s responsibilities by filling in and allowing her to practice some self-care as well. Also, do not be afraid to point her in the direction of a caregiver support group. There are many great resources available to help with compassion fatigue.

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My father has lived in the same house for over 50 years, so he's reluctant to leave. How do I talk to him about moving to a senior care community?

When people grow attached to a familiar setting, moving to a senior care community can be a difficult subject, especially when caregiving is involved. To avoid excessive stress for you and your loved one, there are ways to bring up "the move" to elderly parents. Remember to remain honest and address any concerns your father may have. Prepare yourself for resistance. 

Have you checked out our Is It Time to Seek Senior Care Checklist? This resources will help you decide if it really is the right time for your senior to move out. This may be something that you want to bring to a meeting with your senior to show them some reasons why it may not be safe for them to live independently anymore.

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