March 9, 2022
Caring for someone you love in their time of need is a natural reaction. Love is, after all, more of a verb than a noun. In certain seasons of life, that love simply means tending to an ill child or spouse for a day or two until what ails them runs its course or succumbs to whatever the doctors called into the pharmacy. But sometimes, because of a more serious illness or the age of the loved one, your role as a caregiver can transition into something more. Much more.
The simple truth is that the time and commitment of being a caregiver for an aging parent or loved one can take a toll on your mental and physical health. It can and often does, lead to what is known as caregiver burnout. But it doesn’t have to be this way. By taking care of your own needs and following the tips in this column, you’ll be better able to continue caring for your loved one while preventing burnout.
What is caregiver burnout?
Caregiver burnout is an emotional state caused by repeated exposure to high levels of stress. In caregivers, this often manifests as an overinvestment in time and attention to helping others while neglecting their own needs. This can lead to feelings of exhaustion and frustration that hurt productivity and motivation when caring for that same loved one.
Caregiver burnout is a serious concern for all caregivers. Not only does it make tasks more difficult, but it can also even affect the health of the caregiver. If their physical and mental health is prioritized, caregivers are much better equipped to handle the challenges of their position.
How do I know if I am experiencing caregiver burnout?
Because caregiver burnout happens gradually over time, it is recommended you set aside a few minutes each month and honestly assess if you show any symptoms.
Here are a few of the signs/symptoms of caregiver burnout:
If you are feeling any of these symptoms, don’t panic. There are five things you can do to help fight burnout and return to a healthier you.
Avoiding Caregiver Burnout Tip 1: Set achievable goals
Here are a few tips for creating better goals:
These guiding principles are more than just tips for caregiving. Managing expectations with clear organization and accountability are vital components to success in any area — physical, mental, financial, and more!
Avoiding Caregiver Burnout Tip 2: Don’t be too hard on yourself
Being a caregiver is not an easy task and comes with a lot of pressure and frustration. Don’t let yourself become another source of these feelings. Not everything will be perfect, and that’s okay.
Here are a few tips to help:
Avoiding Caregiver Burnout Tip 3: Stay on top of your physical health
Your physical and mental health are connected. As you improve one, the other will do the same. That is why it is important to make time in your routine for physical exercise. Even if you are only able to commit to a few minutes each day for physical activity, just find a way to move. This could mean taking a walk outside, going to the gym, or joining a fitness group or class. Anything that raises your heart rate makes a difference. Mind-and-body exercises, like yoga, are especially helpful. On top of physical exercise, make sure to focus on getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet.
Avoiding Caregiver Burnout Tip 4: Don’t neglect your social life
One of the leading contributors to poor mental health is social isolation. Make it a priority to have at least 15-30 minutes of social interaction, outside of your caregiving responsibilities, each day. Social interaction can take many different forms. Whether that means talking with a family member over the phone, eating a meal with friends, or simply visiting a neighbor, find the time to talk and interact with others each day.
Another important part of your social life will be creating a social support system. This is a small group of people that you trust should you ever be having a particularly hard day. These people can help you avoid burnout by being there for you when you need them.
Avoiding Caregiver Burnout Tip 5: Get help
There is no shame in getting help. By reaching out to someone, you are allowing others to provide care to you in a similar way you provide care for others. By reaching out for help, you are not admitting any type of weakness or inability. It shows strength, self-awareness, and respect for the responsibilities and challenges of caregiving.
Here are a few ways you can receive help:
If you’re still struggling to address the symptoms of burnout, you may want to consider getting additional help from a senior community. Bridge Senior Living communities provide compassionate and expert care to patients with different care needs, including independent living, assisted living, and memory care.