Providing care for an aging or disabled loved one is probably one of the hardest jobs you will ever do. Assisting with daily cares such as dressing, grooming, bathing and walking is physically challenging. Maneuvering through the maze of medical and social services can be trying and time-consuming. Watching your loved one’s ability to care for him/herself deteriorate is emotionally difficult. And the changes in your personal, social and work life due to your role as a caregiver may leave you feeling confused, unhappy and frustrated. These stresses can pile up on even the strongest of individuals and negatively impact your physical and mental health.
It is important to recognize when the frustrations you are feeling go beyond your ability to manage and into what is often called caregiver burnout. When you are able to identify the warning signs of burnout and learn interventions to reduce stress levels, your caregiving tasks will be more manageable and enjoyable.
Here are some warning signs of Caregiver Burnout:
- Being on the verge of tears or crying a lot
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Overreacting to minor nuisances
- Feeling constantly exhausted
- Losing interest in or having decreased productivity from work
- Withdrawing from social contacts
- Increasing use of alcohol or stimulants
- Change in eating or sleeping patterns
- Inability to relax
- Scattered thinking
- Feeling increasingly resentful
- Being short-tempered with care recipient frequently
- Increasing thoughts of death
You may not always recognize the signs of burnout in yourself, but those close to you probably will. Be open to your friends’ and families’ feedback about how you are doing. Then heed the warnings to counteract burnout.
Once you have recognized that you are experiencing burnout you can try various things to help you cope. Here are some suggestions:
- Participate in a support network. Find family and friends to share joys and frustrations with.
- Consult with a professional counselor for one-on-one counseling.
- Attend a support group to receive positive feedback and coping strategies from others in similar situations.
- Maintain good health by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.
- Take regular time out for journaling, meditating or contemplation.
- Stay involved in hobbies and activities you enjoy.
When you understand and acknowledge that being a caregiver may leave you feeling stressed and anxious you are better able to protect yourself against caregiver burnout. The most important thing you can to do prevent burnout and be an effective caregiver is to take care of yourself
For more information on Caregiver Burnout and other caregiver issues, please call the ADRC of Eagle Country’s Richland Center Office at 608-647-4616 or stop into the office at 221 West Seminary Street, Richland Center, WI 5358
(Article by Jane Mahoney, Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources)