Avoiding the pitfalls of caregiving burnout

Caring for a loved one can be very rewarding but be under no illusion, it’s also really stressful. Moreover, caregiving responsibilities very often turn into a long-term commitment and the emotional impact this has can have a snowball effect over time. If left unchecked caregiver stress will take its toll on your health, your relationships, and your state of mind—eventually leading to burnout. When you reach that point, both you and the person you’re looking after will suffer. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout. 

Avoid Caregiving Burnout, photo by Renate-Vanaga Unsplash

Taking care of your emotional and physical health should not come second. Nurturing your own physical and emotional well-being is as equally as important as making sure the older adults you care for get to their doctor’s appointment or takes their medications on time.

While browsing the AARP website we came across this quiz which we wanted to share because it’s a good early warning indicator for anyone approaching burnout. According to the research, more than 50% of caregivers who feel obliged to look after aging parents experience stress and strain as a result. It’s important to recognize the signs that you may not be coping well so you can do something to try and make the situation better. Prolonged stress can have serious physical and emotional consequences.

Take the caregiving quiz

Score each item on a scale of 1 to 7 to better understand your warning signs of caregiver stress. If your score is under 60, you're doing OK. If your total score is 60 or above, your caregiving responsibilities are beginning to take their toll on your mental health. If it's 90 or above, you are living with caregiver burnout.

Take the quiz here or write it out from the list below.

1 (Never) 2 (Once or twice) 3 (Rarely) 4 (Sometimes) 5 (Often) 6 (Usually) 7 (Always)

What are the signs of caregiver burnout? When caring for a senior loved one how often do you have the following experiences?

  • Feeling resentful
  • Feeling trapped
  • Being tired through lack of sleep
  • Feeling weary
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling helpless
  • Poor appetite or overeating
  • Being physically exhausted
  • Feeling disillusioned
  • Feeling useless
  • Feeling utterly drained of feeling
  • Feeling burnt out
  • Feeling unhappy
  • Feeling anxious

Handling the stress

While looking after an elderly relative will never be “stress-free”, the following tips can help you avoid some of the burnout symptoms. There are also some great support groups out there that can offer advice or a sympathetic ear. These include caregiver support groups such as Care for Carers, Age UK, the National Alliance for Caregiving and Family Caregiver Alliance.

Take care of your physical health

Eat nutritious meals and try not to give in to stress-driven comfort foods, and if you do then don’t beat yourself up about it either, you don’t need to feel guilty! Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and try napping if you are regularly disturbed during the night. If you think you may be suffering from anxiety, then you must seek professional support. Exercise can also help because of the natural endorphins your brain will give off due to performing a form of physical activity.

Don’t hide away

Keep in touch with friends and join groups and classes, even if they are virtual. This may seem like the last thing on your mind but feeling isolated will only compound feelings of stress and anxiety. Having a bit of fun by focusing on something other than caregiving can help you restore your emotional balance. If you find you lose interest in these types of activities, that may be another sign of burnout. 

Ask for help‍

Never be embarrassed or ashamed to admit that you’re not coping and reach out to friends and family, as well as professional services such as respite care for short-term help or local nursing homes. Don’t be shy about accepting any offers of help, most people will only be too glad to support you.

Take a break

As a busy caregiver, leisure time may seem like an impossible luxury. But you owe it to yourself—as well as to the person you’re caring for—to include some downtime into your schedule. Give yourself permission to rest and to do things that you enjoy on a regular basis. You will be a better caregiver as a result.

Don’t bottle things up‍

Research suggests that keeping your feelings bottled up can harm your immune system and lead to physical illness. Talk with friends and family about the rewards and challenges of caregiving. If you’re feeling angry or resentful then say so. Share experiences with colleagues in similar situations. Practicing yoga and meditation can also be beneficial by teaching you to switch off.

Get organized‍

Having a plan will help you to find more time for yourself. Make a list of what needs to be done and get the most important things done first. Pace yourself so that don't overwork yourself some days to the point of exhaustion. Set limits, learn to say "no" and make sure you leverage any third-party help and support.

Take advantage of technology

In a world driven by tech, digitally-powered services can go a long way towards easing the caregiving burden by allowing you to maintain regular contact, even if you can’t physically visit your aging relative on a daily basis. One such service is Designed specifically for individuals who are increasingly obliged to take care of aging relatives, it's an intuitive App that allows younger family members to carry out their caregiving duties without needing to take time out from work or neglect their own families. The App is Android and iOS compatible and is free for 30 days.  Why not take a few minutes to complete our survey? We’d also love to know what you think!  

May 6, 2021


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