Caregiving is an exceedingly strenuous duty, and burnout is prevalent, especially when piled onto other priorities and careers. Caregiver duties can range from light housekeeping to full-time companionship—both of which can lead to both mental and physical exhaustion. Much like your at-home responsibilities, possible childcare duties, and prior professional obligations, caregiving is a rather significant time commitment, not to mention, it can wreak havoc on your physical body.
Studies show that caregivers between 55 and 75 have a higher level of stress hormones by 23% compared to the general population. With this physical toll in mind, caregivers of all ages need to assess their own needs and navigate the initial causes of this burnout. If you identify as an emotionally depleted caregiver, consider the tell-tale signs of caregiver burnout below.
Not only does a care receiver have demands and needs (i.e., assistance with bathing, making decisions, etc.), but so do those immediate family members, pets, and close friends in your inner circle. More often than not, most individuals caring for loved ones are employed on top of their caregiving duties and often have formed a close relationship with the care receiver. Whether you’re the child, sibling, or spouse of the care receiver, you’ve likely offered your services free of charge, rendering these caregiving duties all the draining (physically, financially, or otherwise). Remember, outside responsibilities create conflicting demands as a caregiver, given that the work is time-consuming and taxing.
It may be hard to accept and understand the different conditions of a loved one in many situations, such as early-onset dementia, asthma, or diabetes. Ensuring you understand and prepare for the outcome of these conditions (loss of memory, asthma attacks and possible death) will allow the situation to be slightly less demanding for the caregiver. Doing research will enable you to make peace with the situation and prepare for emergencies.
As a caregiver, day-to-day duties may cause unexpected health issues to rear their ugly heads. For example, one might notice signs of depression, anxiety, arthritis, or even osteoporosis. Not shockingly, stress and anxiety can occur when caring for a loved one. In these demanding circumstances, caregivers may become irritated, abuse drugs or alcohol, lose or gain weight or lose sleep. Having any pre-existing or occurring mental and physical health issues will increase burnout. With this in mind, it’s essential to prioritize self-care.
For many family caregivers, economic status and financial difficulties can contribute to burnout and induce stress. Some specific economic effects of caregivers may be reductions in resources, increases in out-of-pocket expenses, drained PTO banks, and other personal financial strain. On top of emotional instability, these extra expenses can increase anxiety and burnout.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to remain isolated, caregivers may experience the adverse effects of social isolation when faced with time-intensive caretaking responsibilities, i.e., housekeeping, medication monitoring, meal planning, etc. This additional social isolation as a caregiver can be strenuous, and many family caregivers will reduce socialization with immediate family and friends. Because caregivers may need to move into the patient’s home, or vice-versa, they may gradually distance themselves from outside relationships to zero their attention on caregiving.
Once you have assessed the foreseeable causes of caregiving burnout, it’s crucial to implement acts of self-care as a caregiver. You can learn how to manage your emotional strain, finances, relationship, and health when caring for a loved one. Researching and preparing for the work to come beforehand and becoming well-versed in the existing conditions will ward off burnout and drained social batteries.