Mar 13, 2019 by Comfort Keepers
With approximately 43.5 million Americans serving as unpaid caregivers to a loved one, Caregiver Burnout is among one of the fastest growing mental health concerns in the United States and is a real problem here in Maple Grove, MN. While Caregiver Burnout has not yet officially been classified as a mental health condition in the DSM-5, healthcare providers and researchers are quick to warn about the very real and tangible dangers of Caregiver Burnout and the ways to best combat the effects of it.
Caregiver Burnout is the emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion of an individual caring for a loved one who is otherwise incapacitated or limited, either physically or mentally. Caregiver Burnout can not only lead to long term health consequences for the caregiver, but also can put the loved one in their care at risk. Understanding some of the warning signs of Caregiver Burnout, and the ability to recognize the condition in yourself or someone you know, can help circumvent the potential pitfalls and danger that, unchecked, could cause irreparable harm.
Whether it is the anxiety caused by constant fear of something bad happening to the patient, resentment or irritability towards the loved one who is unable to perform otherwise routine tasks on their own, or soul-crushing depression for a wide variety of reasons, one of the most tale-tell signs of Caregiver Burnout is directly related to the mental health of the caregiver. For many Maple Grove caregivers, the pressure and monotony of caring for a loved one can lead to intense depression and debilitating anxiety.
One of the most noticeable warning sign of Caregiver Burnout is when personal responsibilities such as one’s job, bill payment, or personal hygiene are neglected. Where most of the caregiver’s energy is focused on the health and well-being of the patient in their care, it is not uncommon for the caregiver to forget to take care of themselves. In some extreme situations, this can lead to extreme weight gain, impacted credit scores, and loss of employment.
While caregiving is an act of selflessness, it can cause many people who are otherwise patient and loving individuals to overreact to even the smallest inconvenience. When an individual hits a critical point in their exhaustion level, it is not uncommon for that person to snap at the smallest nuisance or irritation. This overreaction can be directed at innocent bystanders, other family members, significant others, or even the patient themselves.
Recognizing the warning signs is just the first step on the path to recovering from or avoiding Caregiver Burnout. There are several things that a caregiver can do to help put them on the path of mental well-being, ensuring a safer environment for their loved one and a healthier life for themselves.
Most cases of Caregiver Burnout can be alleviated or prevented entirely by this one simple act: Take a break. By calling in an in-home respite care provider, creating a shared responsibility schedule, or a combination of the two, the caregiver is less likely to hit that critical mass that can impact their health or the safety of those around them. As a bonus, in-home respite care providers are highly trained staff that can help care for the loved one in a way that a family member might not be able to. Taking a break by getting away for the weekend, having date nights, going to the salon, or having a quiet night at home can prevent Caregiver Burnout almost entirely.
At almost any point in a caregiver’s time with their loved one, it can be easy to be consumed with despair and frustration. Caring for someone who is incapacitated or terminally ill can be overwhelming and bleak. This sadness can add to the symptoms of depression and can also lead the caregiver to lose sight on the good moments with their loved one, and can also cloud the memories of happier times from the past. Remembering the happier times can alleviate Caregiver Burnout, and creating new and happy memories can do the same. A great practice that can reduce the impact of Caregiver Burnout is to make a list of three things each day that one could be grateful for. By focusing on the positive, it is easier to block out the negative.
It is entirely too easy to let the patient’s life overtake and completely consume the life of the caregiver. It is critical that the caregiver remember that they had a life and an identity before the illness, and they can continue to have that life and identity during illness. It can also be a great time to take up a new hobby or connect with other caregivers for social gatherings that have nothing to do with caregiving. Caregiver Burnout impacts many individuals, so finding a support group that is committed to enjoying life outside of caregiving can be vital to leading a happy and healthy life.
Caregiving is a gift of love and dedication, but it can come at a cost. Understanding the warning signs and knowing how to treat the condition is the gift every caregiver can give themselves, and thus, be a better caregiver to their loved one.
If you are a family caregiver in Maple Grove or the surrounding area and are experiencing burnout Comfort Keepers can help by providing respite care services.