Caring for an elderly loved one at home is both rewarding and challenging. So challenging that it can become physically and emotionally overwhelming. In the eldercare field, we call this caregiver burnout or caregiver stress — and it's a recognized phenomenon. There is no shame in it!
At Weatherly, we understand the continuous rigors of caring for an elderly spouse, parent, or grandparent –– especially during a stressful time such as COVID-19. It doesn't mean you don’t have what it takes when you need a little extra help taking care of an older adult. If you're a family caregiver and feel like you might be experiencing caregiver burnout, this article will help you identify some signs and symptoms and point you toward resources that will help. As always, if you'd like to know more about day care or respite care for seniors, we're ready to assist you.
3 Common Signs of Caregiver Burnout / Caregiver Fatigue
1. Lack of Energy, General Fatigue, or Total Exhaustion
Everyone feels under-the-weather from time to time. Still, if you're struggling to get out of bed in the morning for several days in a row, you're likely experiencing caregiver burnout.
Caregivers need to recognize that we don't do our best work when we're bone tired. Even a minor error can have detrimental results. If you're feeling exhausted, it's time to seek assistance — whether it's in the form of professional senior care providers or help from other family members.
2. Headaches or Stomach Aches
Headaches and tummy troubles are common signs of caregiver burnout. If you're suddenly experiencing debilitating headaches or unusual digestive issues, caregiver stress may be the cause.
But those aren't the only physical issues associated with caregiver fatigue. The US Office of Women's Health (OWH) lists many more:
- Sleeplessness, or sleeping far too much
- Rapid weight gain or weight loss
- Mood changes, mood swings, or irritation, and/or
- Body aches, like muscle aches and/or back and neck aches.
Those general feelings of stress and malaise can lead to other serious health issues, like high blood pressure or teeth grinding — teeth grinding habits that can exacerbate TMM and cause earaches. Add those unwell-feelings to the endless effort you put into caregiving, on top of your other responsibilities at home and work, and it's common for burnt-out family members to neglect themselves.
3. Neglecting Your Physical and Emotional Needs
Again, everyone feels "off" once in a while. Maybe it was something you ate, or perhaps you're coping with a work situation that has nothing to do with the older adult in your care. But if the bad days are outnumbering the good days, and you're neglecting your physical health and emotional needs,— note these are often warning signs of burnout.
It's easy to define the ways we neglect ourselves physically. We might overeat or binge on chocolate ice cream. Some caregivers find themselves leaning on tobacco, drugs, or alcohol to take off the edge . Individuals deep in the throes of burnout might skip showers, and their grooming habits might become lackluster. If this sounds like you right now, it's time to find extra help as soon as possible.
Caregivers can also neglect themselves emotionally and spiritually. Some signs that indicate caregiver burnout are as follows:
- Cutting out jogging or exercising because you can't find the time
- Little to no interest in attending social gatherings
- Loss of interest in usual hobbies and pastimes
The Cleveland Clinic says that once caregivers reach this severe caregiver burnout stage, their mood changes from compassionate to cold. At Weatherly Inn, we don't think stressed caregivers are uncaring, but we know they're exhausted. They need a break and some help.
Proven Ways to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
Talk to a counselor or mental health professional. It may be helpful to unburden your feelings of guilt, fear, and helplessness. Talking to a therapist or finding local support groups can go a long way toward preventing caregiver burnout. Accept that you may need help with caregiving duties and ask other family members for assistance or check out community resources in your area. Local caregiver support groups can help you find resources, too, like the Family Caregiver Alliance.
- If you live in Washington state, you can learn more about caregiver support groups online through the Aging and Long-Term Support Administration.
Try respite care. Respite care provides a temporary break — anywhere between a couple days and up to 30 days. We also provide daycare options if you need a couple hours break. If you need time away to handle other personal matters or even have a weekend to yourself, help is there.
Be realistic about progressive diseases like Alzheimer's Disease. Know there will come a time when your family member may need a higher level of care in a memory care facility built specifically for their needs.
Take care of yourself. It's not a luxury! It is an absolute necessity for caregivers. Remember to focus on your own health. Stay healthy: Eating right, exercising, and making sure you get enough sleep will help you be a better caregiver. Try to establish a daily routine. Don't put off your healthcare or doctor's appointments because of your caregiving responsibilities. And finally, don't lean on substances. Caregivers experiencing burnout too often accelerate their use of and dependency on unhealthy substances.
Respite Care at Weatherly Inn
Here at Weatherly Inn, our day care and respite care programs are designed with your family member's well-being and emotional health in mind. Your loved one will feel right at home in a warm, friendly environment. We're happy to cater to their specific needs and pride ourselves on world-class dining experiences at all our locations.
Caregivers take advantage of our respite care services to:
- Handle household needs
- Plan important family events
- Attend distant events, like weddings, family graduations and more
- Get a few days of rest after medical procedures
- Attend educational workshops or work-related conventions
And beyond that, our regular day and respite care families can enjoy more balanced family relationships when they can leave some of the details with Weatherly Inn. If this sounds like you, get in touch. We'd love to meet you and your loved one. We’ll show you our community, and you'll learn why so many come back time and again.
Related Reading & Resources:Caregiver.org: Resources by Health Issue or Conditioncontact us today.