Modern medical technology enables people to live longer than ever, but society has yet to find a fair and efficient means of providing daily care for the growing senior population. Nursing home care is often too expensive, and many families prefer to care for their aging loved ones at home. However, providing this care, particularly for seniors with conditions such as Alzheimer’s, can push loving family members to exhaustion.
Common Causes of Caregiver Burnout
Life doesn’t stop just because you’re providing care for a loved one. Work and school demands remain the same, and many caregivers are in the “sandwich generation,” meaning they provide care for both their parents and their children. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, about a third of the U.S. population provides care for sick or elderly family members or friends at some point during the year. Seven in 10 caregivers spend an average of 20 hours a week assisting elderly relatives or friends, and about 13 percent of caregivers provide 40 hours or more of care to their loved ones every week.
When you consider the burden of providing 20 to 40 hours of errand running, meal preparation, home maintenance, and daily living assistance in addition to the average 40-hour work week and the demands of caring for their own homes and children, it’s easy to see how family caregivers can experience feelings of severe stress and exhaustion.
Professional caregivers can offer families a huge amount of relief. Carmichael respite care professionals can assist seniors with a wide array of daily tasks, offering family caregivers the chance to focus on other personal responsibilities or take a break to prevent burnout. Whether it’s for a few hours a day or a few days a week, respite care is the perfect solution for family caregivers who are feeling overwhelmed.
Recognizing the Signs of Burnout
Many caregivers are reluctant to admit having feelings of burnout, as they feel guilty about feeling overwhelmed or burdened by providing care for a loved one. Recognizing and addressing caregiver burnout are important, because when left untreated, it can result in poor health for caregivers. Burned-out caregivers also aren’t as able as less stressed caregivers to provide good care for their loved ones, and sometimes the problem is so severe that even loving, well-intentioned caregivers provide poor care because they’re so overwhelmed. Here are a few common signs of caregiver burnout:
- Withdrawal from friends and family – Caregivers who feel overburdened by the demands of providing care for elderly loved ones may feel they have no energy left for other relationships, even those with their spouses and children. They may become withdrawn and indifferent about these relationships.
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities – Caregivers experiencing burnout may feel they don’t have the time or energy to invest in the activities they love. They may stop going on annual vacations or participating in social groups they once enjoyed.
- Irritability and depression – The demands of providing care for an elderly relative may feel completely overwhelming for a caregiver. As many as 70 percent of caregivers report symptoms of depression, according to Caring.com. Caregivers may believe their help is inadequate and experience feelings of guilt and hopelessness. These feelings may snowball into depression and anger.
- Sleeping problems – The physical and emotional demands of providing care for elderly loved ones can affect caregivers’ sleep patterns. Physical exhaustion can cause some caregivers to sleep more, while emotional upset caused by the stress of providing care may keep other caregivers up all night. Changes in sleep patterns may contribute to depression, irritability, and physical health problems.
- Frequent sickness – The stresses of handling their daily routines and providing care for seniors may exhaust caregivers and result in weakened immune systems. Family caregivers are much more likely than members of the general public to develop chronic illnesses, and many rate their own health as fair or poor. Stressed caregivers may develop frequent colds and other illnesses. They may also experience an elevated risk of hypertension and diabetes as the demands of caregiving take away from time they spend on exercise and self-care.
- Weight gain – Many caregivers respond to the stress caused by their duties by overindulging in food, causing weight gain. As weight gain is associated with elevated health risks and depression, overeating is something caregivers need to guard against.
- Resentment – Caregivers at the breaking point may experience feelings of resentment toward the people they’re caring for. Every caregiver feels frustration and irritation at some point, but many caregivers feel guilty and ashamed for having these feelings, and this may contribute to depression.
- Alcohol and substance abuse – Overwhelmed by the demands of providing care, many family caregivers try to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Drinking alcohol or abusing drugs may provide temporary relief from the negative feelings caregivers are experiencing, but they often exacerbate problems and create new ones in the long run.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your caregiving responsibilities, you don’t have to manage everything on your own. Though some families choose to take on the caregiving duties, there may come a time when they need a trusted home care service provider. Families sometimes need respite from their duties so they can focus on their other responsibilities, and some seniors need around-the-clock assistance that their families are not able to provide. Home Care Assistance is here to help.
Addressing Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver burnout can have some very serious consequences for caregivers and their aging loved ones. To prevent caregiver burnout, consider these tips:
- Talk about it – Caregivers can better process the emotions they’re experiencing by talking about them with others. Talking with friends and coworkers can help, and there are many online support groups for caregivers.
- Make time for yourself – Adjust your schedule to find an hour here and there for exercise and socialization. If your burnout progresses, you’ll be of no help to your loved one. By taking the time to take care of yourself, you can boost your loved one’s quality of life.
- Reach out for help – Government organizations, nonprofits, and churches can be invaluable resources for caregivers. Some may provide support for home care services or volunteers who can shoulder some of the burden for you. Local senior centers are a great starting point to find what services may be available to you and your loved one.
- Don’t ignore your feelings – Don’t bottle up feelings of helplessness and resentment. It will only make the situation worse. Confront and process these feelings. A counselor or therapist can help, and social services can direct you to affordable options.
- Study – The more educated you are about providing care for your loved one, the better you’ll be able to provide that care. Check out blogs on elder care and find other resources to study best practices. You’ll find hints and tips for achieving a healthier balance between your life and the demands of caregiving.
If you’re experiencing caregiver burnout, consider looking for a professional caregiver who’s compassionate, reliable, and experienced in senior home care. One of the most challenging tasks of helping an elderly relative age in place safely and comfortably is researching agencies that provide in-home care. Carmichael families can turn to Home Care Assistance for reliable, high-quality in-home care for aging adults. We offer 24-hour live-in care for seniors who require extensive assistance, and we also offer respite care for family caregivers who need a break from their caregiving duties. To learn about our high-quality in-home care services, give us a call at (916) 485-4663 today.