We, especially those of us that are caregivers, are all familiar with the statement, “I am totally burned out!”
When we hear these words, we nod our heads with empathy. We understand the exhaustion and overwhelm that can come with our high-demand jobs.
Burnout is a real thing – it is not something imagined by caregivers.
Fifty years ago, psychologist Herbert J. Freudenberger studied and summed up the symptoms of chronic fatigue in medical and caregiving professions with the term burnout. He described it as a “state of mental and physical exhaustion caused by one’s professional life.”
Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout
As a caregiver, you are under a lot of stress. Your focus is on the one that you care for, and this can drive you to not recognize the symptoms when your own well-being is suffering.
Exhaustion and a feeling of overwhelm are the key signs that you may be experiencing burnout.
A shift in attitude is also a common sign of caregiver burnout.
While it is natural to feel tired or stressed from time to time, the emotional and physical demands of taking care of someone else can shift your feelings and emotions to anger, pessimism, and resentfulness towards those that you are caring for.
Caregiver burnout comes with many physical and emotional signs and symptoms:
- stomach and digestive issues
- sleep disorders
- weakened immune system
- muscle tension
- respiratory problems
- chest tightness
- back pain
- concentration and memory difficulties
- perspiration and overheating
- changes in weight
- lacking motivation
- thoughts of isolation
- persistent worry
- mood swings
- feelings impatient
- lacking motivation
- feeling depressed
- becoming angry or argumentative
- feeling anxious
How to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
The first step in preventing caregiver burnout is awareness.
You not only need to be aware of the well-being of the one that you care for, but you also need to keep a check on your own emotional and physical well-being. Consider using our list of burnout signs and symptoms as your personal awareness checklist.
Stress prevention is also important in preventing burnout.
Stress triggers mental and physical symptoms that are common to burnout, such as irritability, weakened immune system, digestive issues, headaches, body pain, weight gain, and sleep disturbances. Manage caregiver stress by setting realistic goals and focusing on what you can provide. Seek help for what you are unable to manage and accept help where it is offered.
If you’re not sure if you’re experiencing stress, our Caregiver Stress Check can help you to recognize the signs of stress due to your role as a caretaker.
Routine is also important to diminish stress in dementia caregiving.
Routine provides structure both in the life of the person with dementia and the caregiver. Routine ensures that you to do what is most meaningful in your life and work and that you are not spending valuable time working out what has to be done next.
It is important to take care of yourself first as a caregiver.
Self-care gives you the ability to care for others. Work self-care into your life every day to ward off burnout.
“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.” – Parker Palmer
Respite care can give you the break that you might need to prevent burnout. It is important to remember that seeking help does not make you a failure. Instead, it can help you be a successful caregiver.
We have created a Respite Program to give caregivers a needed and welcome break. If you are seeking help a few hours a day or just a few days a month, we’re here to help.
When we care for ourselves, we can care better for our loved ones.