Caregiver Fatigue/Burnout….is that really a thing? Yes, yes it is! Caregiver burnout is described as:
Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude — from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned. Burnout can occur when caregivers don’t get the help they need, or if they try to do more than they are able — either physically or financially. Many caregivers also feel guilty if they spend time on themselves rather than on their ill or elderly loved ones. Caregivers who are “burned out” may experience fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression. (copied from article published Nov 2017 Cleveland Clinic Website)
Some of the symptoms of caregiver burnout are similar to that of stress and depression some of that includes:
- Withdrawal from friends, family and other loved ones
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
- Feeling sad, hopeless, helpless, irritable and/or angry
- Changes in appetite and/or weight
- Sleep disturbances/patterns/insomnia
- Increased illnesses
- Emotional and physical exhaustion
- Thoughts of suicide
I am writing all of this out because I know this is a real thing. I don’t care if you have been caregiving for 6 months or 16 years this can happen. It is so important to take care of the caregiver as well as the person being cared for. So much easier said than done, I know that all too well. Finances are strained, time is limited and the ability to find someone to help is difficult. There are so many things going against you and the thought of trying to find someone to trust to give you respite is even more difficult; not to mention the planning and prep work it takes to get ready for that break the caregiver so desperately needs. This is one of the reasons caregivers don’t take time for themselves as the planning, work and stress that goes into being able to get away is sometimes not worth the small break in reality.
I have felt many of the symptoms of Caregiver fatigue/burnout. It mimics depression but the problem is the drugs that treat depression do not help this problem. You see, it isn’t as much in the brain like depression as it is a way of life. You can’t fix the way of life so in essence you can’t fix the burnout. It is almost a catch 22. I have found 2 things that help me. First, I make sure I take a little time for myself. Sometimes that is just staying up late after everyone goes to bed just to have peace and quiet and do something that I enjoy like watch a mindless TV show or play Words with Friends. Of course, I have gotten in a bad habit of staying up too late and I am exhausted the next day so you have to find the right balance so you get the sleep you need. I am still working on figuring that part out. Second, for me, I get out at least one night a week. That might mean just running errands but I get out. Sometimes I get out and go get a pedicure or have my nails done. Sometimes dinner out with friends. Sometimes it is just to go grocery shopping…..whatever it is, get away from your responsibility of caregiving each chance you get. I am fortunate in that I have a husband who can do for Hannah so I can get away at times. I know this is more difficult for those people who don’t have someone they can trust. But again, those are 2 of the things that work for me. A third thing is a therapist (someone who is neutral and is not invested in the lives of those involved). I have found a great psychiatrist who I trust and just going to talk to her every 4-5 weeks helps me release some of my stress. She is a safe place for me to vent and share ALL that is going wrong in my life.
Tomorrow I will blog about what NOT to say to a caregiver!
Until next time………