Caregiver burnout and depression is all too common. Most family caregivers are not trained healthcare professionals, and the tasks they perform on a daily basis can take physical and emotional tolls on their bodies and spirits. If the stress they experience isn’t alleviated, it could lead to serious health problems and ultimately, the inability to provide the level of care they desire for their loved one
Caring for an ill or aging loved one can be a rewarding experience. Most people consider helping a loved one during their time of need as a noble and selfless responsibility. However, ongoing selflessness can easily lead to poor self-care, physical illness and emotional burnout, especially if the loved one in your care is suffering from a chronic illness or degenerative disease such as dementia. For family caregivers, stress can build up without much warning, making it harder to care for their loved ones and themselves.
How to Recognize the Signs of Caregiver Burnout
If you’re busy caring for a loved one, you may become so focused on providing care that it may be difficult to realize or admit that you truly are experiencing harmful levels of stress. Even for the most resilient and capable individuals, caring for someone close to you involves challenging emotional elements to which no one is completely immune.
The Alzheimer’s Association lists several symptoms of stress common for those caring for a loved one with dementia, but these signs are relevant to any caregiving situation. Common signs of stress include:
- Denial about your loved one’s condition
- Anger and frustration, either towards your loved one or your situation in general
- Irritability or moodiness that results in negative actions or remarks
- Lack of concentration that makes it hard to do familiar tasks
- Exhaustion that feels insurmountable
- Sleeplessness caused by worrying
- Social withdrawal from people and places you used to enjoy
- Anxiety about the future
- Depression that makes it impossible to cope
- Health problems that won’t go away with medication
If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, you’re likely at a risk of caregiver burnout. When you lack the energy and emotional strength to continue carrying out daily tasks, it’s time to talk to your doctor, seek support and come up with a strategy to make sure you’re taking good care of yourself.
Tips for Relieving Caregiver Stress & Avoiding Depression
Caregiver stress and depression can often go hand-in-hand, even to the point where it can be hard to tell which causes which. Depression is a serious emotional condition that affects every part of your life with feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and, at its worst, persistent thoughts of death and dying. People experience depression differently, and there are different ways each person learns to cope, from medication to counseling to practicing good self-care. Learning to manage your stress as soon as possible can help you avoid the serious effects of depression and burnout and keep you going strong as you continue to care for your loved one.
Great self-care and stress-management techniques for caregivers include:
- Take Advantage of Available Resources – Learn about what resources are available in your area to utilize if you ever need some backup. Adult day centers, senior living communities offering respite care services, home care services and more can provide valuable caregiving help when you feel overwhelmed.
- Seek and Accept Help – If close friends or family members offer to help you, let them. Most people who care about you and your loved one are happy to help take care of simple tasks, such as running to the pharmacy or grocery store, helping you clean or taking your loved one to an appointment. Don’t be afraid to ask someone you trust for help when you need it.
- Find Support – Talk about your problems and concerns with someone who understands what you’re going through, either a close friend or a local caregiver support group. Not only will it help you to voice your concerns, but you may also discover valuable advice from those who have shared your burdens. This can also keep you from feeling like you are going through this difficult time alone.
- Relax and Revitalize – Make sure you take some time for yourself every now and then. Learn relaxation techniques, like meditation, to practice keeping anxiety and stress at bay. Do something you enjoy, such as reading a book or catching up with friends, to remind yourself of who you are and that your life has value beyond your role as a caregiver.
- Take Care of Your Physical Health – Make time to see your doctor regularly and consult them on any health problems you may be experiencing. Address your concerns as soon as possible to keep them from turning into a serious problem. Make time for physical exercise, eat well and try to get the right amount of sleep each night.
Remember, prioritizing your own emotional and physical health is not selfish. In fact, taking care of yourself is vital to being a good caregiver for your loved one. You can’t have the energy, strength or positive state of mind you need to be the best caregiver possible unless you practice good self-care and reduce the stress in your life.
Support When You Need It the Most
We’re honored to help family caregivers and their loved ones at Tuscan Gardens Senior Living. Many of us have gone through the same journey with our own parents and loved ones, so we understand the difficult challenges involved with providing care.
If you ever need guidance on caregiving techniques or support for your emotional well-being, the team at Tuscan Gardens is here for you, every step of the way.