It’s hard to accept help. Or maybe it’s hard to accept we need help. Either way, the outcome is the same – caregiver burnout is real and affects everyone involved in caregiving.
More than one in five Americans are providing care to an adult or child with special needs. Many of those people provide care for an extended period, without help. Roughly 61% of those providing care do so while still working.
What does caregiver burnout look like? How can we recognize it in ourselves or others? What are some of the strategies we can put in place to avoid burnout? Or, if we are already experiencing burnout, how do we turn it around?
Caregiver Burnout Affects Everyone
In the day-to-day routine of a caregiver, it can be hard to recognize signs of burnout. Head down, completing the tasks that need to be done, a caregiver can move through the day oblivious to signs and symptoms of their own failing physical or mental health. Their focus on the person they are caring for can be all-encompassing, causing them to overlook their own needs.
Whether you are caring for someone out of love, obligation, or a sense of doing what’s right, you can experience caregiver burnout. The signs aren’t something to take lightly. Take note of what you are feeling, or what you observe in another caregiver, and speak up.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
Lack of energy
Feeling out of control
Lack of concern for own health
Weight loss or gain
No interest in activities once enjoyed
Caregivers often get completely wrapped up in the world of the person they are caring for. Doctor’s appointments, personal care, and anticipating every need before it is expressed become the focus of every minute of every day. The often self-imposed desire to be the perfect caregiver is just too much for anyone to attain.
The Spouse as Caregiver
Being a spouse and primary caregiver comes with its own unique set of challenges. The change from romantic partner to provider of care can be unsettling, leading to a greater incidence of depression. In fact, a spousal caregiver is as equally at risk of depression as their loved one with the debilitating condition.
Families with aging parents would be wise to plan for private duty home care as relief for the primary caregiver. While they may not want help, feel they need it, or even ask for it, having arrangements for a break in caregiving will be critical to overall health. Even a short break can make a big difference in the emotional and mental health of the spouse providing care.
Areas of Help
Even if the plan starts slow with private duty care, the spouse serving as the primary caregiver will greatly benefit from assistance with daily tasks such as laundry, grocery shopping, and light housekeeping. These routine chores require energy that can be better focused on self-care, including time away from the home with friends, attending support groups, or alone time spent in meditation, yoga, or prayer.
Caregiving Provided by Families
In the United States, older people are far more likely to live alone than with family. Often sibling groups delegate one adult child to be the full-time caregiver due to proximity or availability of time. These adult children are often the daughters and healthcare decision-makers in their own homes, with full-time jobs and family responsibilities compounding their caregiving stress.
Tips to Avoid Caregiver Burnout
Not sure if you are experiencing burnout? Take this short quiz. The most important point to make in avoiding caregiver burnout is to ask for help before you need it.
Explore resources in your area. Educate yourself about services that are available for individuals in your disease path. For example, Alzheimer’s Support Groups, Parkinson’s Support Groups, or cancer organizations that can help you be a more informed caregiver. Reaching out for help helps older people help themselves, which is especially important for those without close or involved family.
Avoiding Caregiver Burnout
Don’t take it personally.
Talk about it.
Whether you are a spousal caregiver or an adult child taking care of an aging parent, caregiving is a challenging task. If you have a wonderful history with your parents or your relationship is strained, it will be a role reversal to lead your parents to the decisions that are best for them. This will involve uncomfortable conversations and family meetings but often the best option for everyone is to have help come into the home through a private duty agency.
We Always Hurt the Ones We Love
It takes families by surprise that obstinate parents who have gone above and beyond to be difficult with family members will be gentle as lambs with private duty caregivers and other professionals. Sad, but true – parents are confident in their children’s capacity to love them no matter what. They know they will be forgiven as they act out in opposition to the reduced independence they perceive comes with an increase in care.
It's a big step to accept private duty caregivers into the home, but an important one. The key to avoiding caregiver burnout for both a spouse and adult child primary caregiver is to accept help – wherever we can get it. Taking time away from caregiving responsibilities and focusing on self-care will make a noticeable difference in mental and physical health.
Private Duty Home Care is an invaluable addition to any aging plan. For seniors who are determined to remain at home, safety is a top concern. Private duty care is the ideal compromise for primary caregivers who are concerned about caregiver burnout. From a few hours to a couple of days a week, respite from caregiving duties can be a life saver.
Providing flexible options and delivering peace of mind are two reasons Private Duty Home Care is a Resource We Love. Learn more about the services that will help you avoid caregiver burnout in the Resources Section of our Blog.