Caregiver Burnout

Caring for a chronically ill family member or loved one is a tough, demanding, often thankless job.  Most caregivers gladly make the sacrifices to provide compassionate care for their family members and loved ones.  Yet, it is well known that caregivers can and do burnout, both physically and mentally.

Why Do Caregivers Burnout? The reasons are many…

  • Stress – Stress can become a constant companion for the caregiver.  Not only do they have to see their loved one suffer, but they also have to be on call at every possible moment. Fear of the loved one’s death can also compound the feeling of stress that a caregiver undergoes.
  • Loss of control – Everything revolves around the patient’s needs and the caregiver sees a loss of control in their own life and its situations.  This adds to the feeling of despair and helplessness.
  • Lack of social life – Caring for someone is a full time job and it leaves little time for a social life.  Caregivers do not have the time to go out to parties or even just enjoy a leisurely lunch with a friend.
  • Feeling trapped – Despite the fact that the person they are caring for is very dear to them, caregivers could also suffer from a feeling of being trapped in a situation that shows little chances of improvement.  This is also followed by prolonged feelings of guilt and unhappiness.
  • Loss of individuality – When someone becomes a caregiver, they don’t have time for their hobbies or the time to do things that they used to enjoy or like.  Moreover, they are unable to see themselves as individuals beyond the role of the caregiver.

Recognizing Burnout

The symptoms of burnout are not always easy to spot. Caregivers often downplay the extent to which they are under pressure and its effects on their lives. Caregivers undergoing burnout might display some of the following symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Constant exhaustion
  • Lack of interest in work
  • Disinterest in social life
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased use of alcohol
  • Feeling helpless and hopeless
  • Becoming argumentative with others

Treating Burnout

Once the symptoms of burnout are recognized, it’s imperative that it is treated immediately or it could adversely affect the physical and mental health of the caregiver.  What are the ways in which caregiver burnout can be treated?

  • Caregiving relief – Caregivers should ensure that they have a support system which helps in taking off some of the load from them every now and then.  They should enlist friends and other family members to help them out.  It is important that caregivers take time off from themselves on a regular basis.
  • Support group or network – Enroll in a support group because caregivers can meet others there who are in similar situations.  This helps them identify with others and they can also gain valuable insight and understanding into how to cope.
  • Regular exercise and healthy diet – Caregivers need to take care of their bodies too, so regular exercise is a must.  A healthy diet also helps in keeping their minds sharp and their bodies fit.
  • Meditation – Meditation helps in reducing stress and restoring focus, and caregivers should establish a quiet time for themselves where they can relax and let go.
  • Hobbies – Caregivers should not abandon their hobbies and they should continue doing that which they enjoy doing.
  • Counseling – Professional counseling can be of great help because it will help caregivers accept the situation and will let them deal with it the right way.

Caregivers need to understand that it’s important to take care of themselves too. Burnout can affect not just their lives, but also that of their loved ones.