Understanding Caregiver Burnout
Although family members often describe care for an aging parent or loved one as a rewarding experience, it is also exhausting both mentally and physically, and can leave the caregiver with little time to tend to their own needs. Caregiving is an around-the-clock job with many responsibilities, unpredictable obstacles and uncertain outcomes that can quickly lead to significant burnout.
What causes caregiver burnout? Caregiver burnout can be the result of a handful of things, however in many cases, emotional strain plays a large part. Family caregivers must take on new roles, and many adult children find themselves lost as they become a “parent” to the person who has always lovingly provided care for them in the past. The role reversal is particularly taxing for adult children as they start to assume household chores and personal care, as well as financial and legal responsibilities. Watching an aging loved one’s decreased dependence can be extremely difficult.
Stress is another factor leading to caregiver burnout. While all caregivers experience some level of stress, those who suffer extreme strain may develop symptoms of their own, ranging from irritability to substance abuse. In addition, their health may suffer as they experience increased aches and pain, difficulty sleeping or drastic changes in mood. Caregivers may even experience feelings of guilt because alone, they are not able to provide adequate care. If you provide care for an aging loved one and feel you cannot offer the highest level of care, click here to learn about hourly in-home respite options.
The lack of an adequate network is also a contributing factor to caregiver burnout. Often, people are reluctant to ask for help or underestimate the amount of work that is involved in taking care of another person who has limited abilities. A caregiver who is uncomfortable asking friends, family or local organizations for assistance in running errands, preparing meals or helping with household chores is far more likely to burn out than someone who takes an occasional break.
It’s essential that caregivers take time to care for themselves, and learn to delegate some of the easier tasks. While leisure time may seem impossible, it needs to be a regular part of a caregiver’s schedule. This includes getting out of the house and setting aside time to spend with family and friends in a relaxed, comfortable setting. This time allows the caregiver to rest and recuperate, ensuring their health and the level of care they provide.