Being a caregiver is a rewarding, albeit oftentimes challenging, experience that requires strength and selflessness to take on the responsibility of another human being. Oftentimes caregivers become so preoccupied with caring for their loved one, that they neglect to care for themselves. This is how caregiver burnout happens.
Caregiver burnout is the state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. Depending on the type of care provided, as a caregiver, you may experience this after several weeks or even years of caring for another person.
What Causes Caregiver Burnout?
Aside from the obvious physical work that can wreak havoc on your body, many caregivers can suffer from mental and emotional turmoil due to the demands of Caregiving. Here are some common causes of caregiver burnout.
Ignorance of Self
Caregivers often feel the need to put others first in order to provide the best possible care. While this is a wonderful quality to have, it can cause burnout quickly. This means that others’ needs often take precedence over your own needs. It’s hard to care for others if you aren’t caring for yourself too.
As a caregiver, it’s understandable that you want to do everything in your power to help your loved one. But having unreasonable expectations or putting too much pressure on yourself can be a heavy burden to bear. In addition, your hard work and love for what you do may not be visibly acknowledged. This might cause you to feel unappreciated.
Not Asking for Help
Caregiver burnout can also occur if you attempt to take on the majority of the caregiving responsibilities on your own. In many situations, you may not have control over every aspect of care. You may need additional resources and/or more financial assistance to improve the quality and quantity of care. There’s no shame in asking for help.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
The signs of caregiver burnout may not be noticeable at first. As a caregiver, you might feel like something is off, but just brush it off as stress and continue with your regular routine. Unfortunately, caregiver burnout is not something to ignore.
If you are a caregiver to a loved one living with memory loss, understanding the signs of caregiver burnout can help you take better care of your loved one and of yourself.
Fatigue, Irritability, Hopelessness
Constantly looking after another person can be tiring. If you are also dealing with caring for someone with declining physical or mental health, such as memory loss, this can cause a sense of hopelessness for both parties.
Even with a routine and schedule, a live-in caregiver may not have proper sleep patterns. Depending on the care provided, you might notice that you are physically sleeping less than four hours at a time. You might also worry about the days ahead or the health of your loved one, which can cause sleep problems.
Getting Sick Frequently
A mild cold is expected from time-to-time. When these circumstances happen more frequently, it may be a sign of caregiver burnout. The physical and mental stress of caring for another person can weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to viruses.
Isolation from family, friends, and social groups occurs gradually. You might start off by making excuses for not attending social functions or gatherings. If you feel underappreciated for your work, you might notice that you begin to shy away from interactive activities with others. As more “walls” are built up, caregiver burnout becomes more evident.
Feeling Like Caregiving Is Controlling Your Life
You may suspect you are experiencing burnout if the endless work hours seem to increase. A full-time caregiver may be spending 16 to 24 hours a day being responsible for someone else. Between the chores and personal hygiene tasks, there are days a caregiver rarely has time to relax. If you feel like caregiving is taking over your life, you may have caregiver burnout.
How to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
Whether you choose to become a caregiver as a profession or you suddenly find yourself assigned as the provider for a loved one, caregiver burnout is inevitable. Here are a few caregiver burnout prevention techniques you can try to ease the strain.
It can be hard to accept the fact that your loved one is declining and you can’t do anything to prevent it, especially if your loved one has memory loss. But as a caregiver, you need to learn to accept the situation and focus on the areas where you can make a difference. It is up to the caregiver to accept the situation and plan accordingly. Do not blame your loved one or the world.
Separate Personal Life from Caregiving Life
It’s important to separate your personal life from your work as a caregiver. It’s not easy—especially for a live-in caregiver—but it can be done. Ease your mind, body, and soul with things that bring you joy. From family time, to hobbies, invest in your own time to prevent burnout.
Ask For Help
As mentioned, there is no shame in asking for help. There are likely people around you that would love to help in some way if they knew it was needed. Plus, there are often many community resources available to ease the burden of caregiving. From short-term nursing care in emergencies to respite options, there are also private programs and organizations to help ease the burden of caregiving.
Memory & Company’s Respite Hotel Services
When it comes to respite services in Markham and Oakville, you can rely on the friendly team at Memory & Company. We are a Respite Hotel and Premium Day Program for people living with Memory Loss. We offer short-term and long-term accommodations and a specialized Premium Day Program for people living with memory loss and their caregivers. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you along this journey.
Victor Kwong is the Founder, Co-Owner, and Director of Innovation & Technology at Memory & Company. He has a background in teaching and policing, and currently works as a spokesperson, Public and Media Relations Officer for a metropolitan police department. Victor is passionate about working with seniors and maintaining human interaction. He is also the recipient of an award for rescuing seniors from a fire at a long-term care facility and the recipient of a life-saving award for resuscitating a passenger and coordinating the subsequent emergency landing of an international flight.