Caregivers are some of the hardest working and selfless people you’d ever meet. Whether it is through love or duty, they have stepped up to the plate to care for their elderly or disabled loved one. Whilst it is honorable to care for loved ones in need, that care is not without sacrifice. Caregivers must juggle the many roles they have: parent, spouse, worker, caregiver. Without support and compassionate boundaries, this can be daunting for caregivers, and often makes them feel like they are failing at all their relationships and roles, because of the demands of being a caregiver. This can lead to caregiver burnout, which not only does not serve you but also does not benefit your loved one in care. Caregiver burnout is a serious psychological disorder that is defined as a debilitating mental condition brought about by unrelieved stress. Ensure that you are looking for the signs of burnout before they happen so you, so your loved one can get adequate care.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
- Social Isolation
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest in socializing or social activities
- Feelings of depression and hopelessness
- Lack of personal care: both physical and mental
- Not eating a healthy diet
- A drastic change in appetite
- Changes in lifestyle habits: gaining or losing weight
- Drastic changes in sleeping habits: sleeping too much or too little
- Feelings of dread or anxiety about the future
- Lack of energy or extreme fatigue
- Feeling that caregiving has taken over your life
- Feelings physical pain such as headaches, muscle cramps, and stomach aches
- Compromised immune system
- Difficulty with emotional coping strategies
Tips for Prevention
Be mindful of the signs of caregiver burnout or a decline in your mental health. If you are experiencing anxiety, depression, or some of the other signs stated, then it is time to reach out for help. I know it may seem noble to be a stoic caregiver who can weather the storm unflinchingly, but that is not an accurate picture of humanity and community. You and your elderly loved ones are very much loved by your community. Often, they want to help and may have creative solutions or strategies for problems you may face. You both deserve the best care available. Reach out to your community: friends, family, co-workers, and local senior centers and ask what options are available. You are not alone.
Self-care is critical, you may be overwhelmed with everything you need to accomplish to make sure your family is safe and happy, but you are also part of your family and you deserve some time for happiness and relaxation. Permit yourself to take breaks. Make sure you give yourself some time every day to unwind. Go pick up an activity you love but have not had time for it. Or simply take care of your physical needs: go for a walk in nature, take a long shower and eat some delicious healthy food. Make sure to visit your doctor and therapist regularly. Even a little extra time every day can make a world of difference in your health.
Self-care may seem impossible when you feel like the time is always running out, so it is time for you to consider other options. Check-in with your and your spouse’s workplace and see if there are any family-leave benefits. This can make a big difference by having a few extra hours a day. If there is an opportunity for you to take a break or a vacation, consider short-term respite care. Respite programs can provide care from 1 to 5 days which can be just enough time for you to have a relaxing getaway with your friends. This will return you with a brighter spirit and in a better state of mind.
It may also be possible for you and your family to consider hiring home care services. Having a professional personal support worker can make a huge difference in your family`s quality of life because they have professional education and skills to bring life-changing strategies into your home. As well, having a personal support worker can be an excellent way for your elderly loved one to enjoy more independence in the comfort of their own home. This means you can have more personal time alone and with your friends and family with the comfort and security of knowing your elderly loved one is well cared for.
If you are finding your role as caregiver overwhelming, you are not alone. There are local and online support groups for you to join and they can support you emotionally while you decide the best course of action for your family. A personal care worker is invaluable in the skills they bring to the table, and the peace-of-mind that comes with knowing your loved one is receiving the best possible care while you enjoy your well-deserved break.
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