How to Manage the Caregiver Burnout or Burden

A caregiver refers to any person who provides care for someone who requires extra assistance. To name a few, this could be a family caregiver, a home caregiver, a respite caregiver, or a primary caregiver. This job title typically refers to a private duty home caregiver or senior caregiver in the context of elderly care. As the name implies, private duty home caregivers perform patient care-related activities in the home and personal care, typically related to one’s daily life, and relieve a family member’s caregiver burden. These professionals are not typically considered healthcare professionals because they do not work under the supervision of a doctor or nurse, though there are some exceptions. A home caregiver, for example, may provide physical therapy.

What causes caregiver stress?

Caregivers are frequently so preoccupied with caring for others that they neglect their own emotional, physical, and spiritual health. The demands placed on a caregiver’s body, mind, and emotions can quickly become overwhelming, resulting in fatigue, hopelessness, and, eventually, burnout.

caregiver burnout

There are also factors that can cause caregiver burnout. They include:

Role confusion: Most people become perplexed when they are pushed into the role of caregiving. They may find it difficult to separate their roles as lovers, spouses, children, friends, or other close relationships.

Lack of control: Some caregivers get frustrated when they lack enough money, resources, or skills to effectively plan, manage and organize care for their loved ones.

Unrealistic expectations: Many caregivers believe that their involvement will improve the patient’s health and happiness. This can be unrealistic, especially for patients who have progressive diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.

Unreasonable demands: Some caregivers put unreasonably high demands on themselves, in part because they see care as their sole responsibility. Some family members, such as siblings, adult children or the patient, may make unrealistic demands on the caregiver. They might even disregard their own responsibilities, placing additional burdens on the person designated as the main caregiver.

Signs of caregiver stress

As a caregiver, you may be so focused on your loved one that you are unaware that your own health and well-being are suffering. According to caregiver burnout statistics, approximately 4 in 10 (38%) family caregivers report high stress (score 4 or 5), 25% report moderate stress (score 3), and 36% report little to no stress (rating of 1 or 2 based on a 5-point scale).

Caregiver burnout symptoms are similar to those of stress and depression. They are as follows:

  • Lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and others
  • Loss of appetite, weight, or both changes
  • Feeling down, easily irritated, miserable, and powerless
  • Sleep pattern changes
  • Getting sick more frequently
  • Desire to harm yourself or the person for whom you are caring
  • Irritability
  • Physical and emotional exhaustion

Stages of caregiver burnout

As a family caregiver, you have probably grown accustomed to devoting the majority of your time to others while putting yourself last on the priority list. It would be difficult not to. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, caregivers devote an average of 24.4 hours per week providing care to their patients.

Caregiving can be an amazingly rewarding experience. However, if the stress levels of are left unchecked, they can have a negative effect on a caregiver’s health, relationships, and state of mind, which eventually leads to burnout. About  three-quarters of family caregivers report not visiting a doctors as often as they should. 55 percent admit that they skip doctor appointments for themselves. Yet 40 to 70 percent of caregivers have significant clinical symptoms of depression with an estimated one-quarter to half of them meeting the diagnostic criteria for severe depression.

Some of the preventative steps and measures you can take to avoid caregiver burnout include:

1. Stress Stage

Stress arousal is the earliest sign that you are not receiving adequate physical and emotional support. Perhaps you are frustrated or unhappy with your loved one’s declining health or slow progress. It can be difficult to accept that the quality of your care and effort have nothing to do with the care recipient’s actual health-related mood. This dissatisfaction can result in caregiver stress.

Keep a close eye on these signs of caregiver stress

  • Experiencing frequent headaches, bodily pain, or other physical issues
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Heart palpitations or abnormal heartbeats (skipped beats)
  • Loosing memory
  • Grinding your teeth at night
  • Having high blood pressure episodes
  • Feeling overburdened or consistently concerned
  • Easily becoming irritated or angry

If you become so preoccupied with caring for others, you may end up neglecting your own physical, mental, and psychological well-being. It will not be long before you experience caregiver burnout.

2. Caregiver Burnout Stage

Caregiver burnout is a form of mental, emotional and physical fatigue induced by the continuous and immense stress of caregiving.

You may be trying hard to preserve a sense of purpose while trying so hard to provide care, which makes a caregiver to feel lonely and unappreciated, second-guessed, or criticized by other family members.

Keep a close eye on these signs of burnout stage

  • Feelings of apathy
  • Excessive drinking, smoking, or eating
  • Increasing consumption of coffee, tea, and soda
  • Feeling increasingly resentful
  • Cynical thinking
  • Social withdrawal from friends and/or family
  • Ignoring responsibilities
  • Having less energy than you used to
  • Decrease in sexual desire
  • Having difficulty relaxing, even when assistance is available
  • Arriving late for work

If you experience any three of the above symptoms then it could be that you are in the second stage of burnout cycle.

3. Compassion Fatigue Stage

According to the Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project, compassion fatigue is a severe state of anxiety and fixation to the patients being helped to the point where it can cause secondary traumatic stress for the helper. Unlike caregiver burnout, compassion fatigue is caused by being exposed to another person’s traumatic experience(s), resulting in high levels of psychological pain and frustration.

Compassion fatigue is most common among health care professionals, such as, counselors, nurses, correctional workers, and foster care workers. However, family caregivers are also vulnerable because they frequently lack access to preventive measures, such as mental health days, peer support, and professional counseling, that many employers provide.

Caregivers’ empathy for those in their care often deteriorates in the final stage of burnout. Someone may have a reduction in patience and uncharacteristic angry outbursts. That is why it is critical to understand the warning signs of compassion fatigue.

Keep a close eye on these signs of Compassion Fatigue

  • Wanting to commit suicide
  • Feeling overwhelmed, tired, and depleted
  • Avoiding friends, work, and possibly even family
  • Having frequent headaches
  • Wishing to “opt out” of society
  • Having persistent stomach or bowel issues
  • Feelings of meaninglessness and hopelessness

Any two of the above symptoms may indicate that you are in the third stage of the burnout cycle. Most people realize something is wrong when they already reached the exhaustion stage.

So consider this: Are you irritable or hopeless, experiencing emotional and physical exhaustion, or becoming ill more frequently? Do you have heightened anxiety or difficulty making health-care decisions?

Sometimes when your loved one’s care needs are wearing you down, it may be time to start looking into assisted living options.

According to Pew Research Center, more than 40 million adults in North America are caring for an elderly, disabled loved one or chronically ill out of love, obligation, or a sense of doing what is right.

Actually, 70% of family caregivers assist one patient over the age of 65, while 22% assist two patients and 7% assist three or more patients. Three-quarters (32%) of caregivers identify their encounter as stressful.

Now that you have a better understanding of caregiver resentment or burnout, let us look at some strategies for dealing with caregiver stress. Although resentment is a natural and common consequence of caring for a loved one, it does not have to outweigh your experience.

So, how can I prevent caregiver burnout?

Here are the key steps that experts recommend to avoid and minimize this complex emotions:

1. Seek help

Ask your family for assistance if you haven’t already. Give people a chance to help you, no matter how difficult it is. Consider specifics. Making broad requests for assistance gives people too much leeway. Begin with small requests, such as “Would you be able to accompany Mom to her appointment on Monday?” or “Could you help me pick Grandpa’s prescription meds this week?”

Consider getting the help of your spouse or children. If you have adolescent or adult children, request a family meeting to find areas where you require the most help and support. If your family members do not understand what you require, they are unlikely to offer support.

2. Be ready to be criticized

This entails honing your communication and response skills. One way to avoid criticism is to communicate with all family members on a regular basis. This could include sending out weekly emails with health and caregiving updates. This way, your family members will be unable to claim that they were not informed.

Prepare some responses in advance. Prepare a calm and straightforward response if you have been the target of harsh criticism. Thank your siblings for their concern or suggestions. Most people criticize because they feel terrible for not being able to help. Don’t take it personally.

3. Focus on your well-being

Self-care can be difficult. There is no time, it appears self-indulgent, and you have no idea where to begin. Priority number one is your health. Your chances of managing resentment will improve if you focus on the fundamentals of physical and emotional health. Some of the measure you can take in your caregiver burnout treatment include:

  • Start doing exercises every day. A stroll outside can be rejuvenating. If you can’t leave the house, try yoga or stretching
  • Take a well-balanced diet and practice good sleeping hygiene
  • Try out some relaxation meditation. This can help with reducing anxiety and worry by calming your emotions.
  • Read several caregiving books to learn how to be a better caregiver or how to perform tasks more safely and efficiently.

Self-care entails being prepared. Taking the time to settle your own matters is an important step toward feeling positive about the future. Managing what you can control helps a lot.

4. Consider seeking professional assistance

It can be difficult to delegate responsibility. However, once you make the decision to do it, it can be a great relief.

Professional assistance can take various forms. One option is to recruit caregivers through a home care provider to help with caregiving roles. The advantage of this option is that you can begin with a small number of hours and days of the week to see how things progress.

Home care caregivers can assist your loved one with everything from bathing and dressing to meal preparation, running errands, emotional support, and transportation. Another option is to hire out some basic home tasks such as cleaning, yard work, home delivery services for groceries or even getting nursing assignment help, especially if you are taking other short courses to improve your knowledge and skills.

5. Control your negative emotions

It not easy to control your negative emotions. All of the self-care suggestions mentioned above will help with this. Keep in mind that it is important to accept your emotions as natural. Breathing exercises and physical activity can both aid in the release of tension.

If your emotions are out of control, talk to someone about it. A close friend, spiritual advisor, or counsellor can be of assistance.

6. Create your own positive affirmations for abundance

Have you ever paid attention to your thoughts for a day? Probably you have noted some very unpleasant thoughts about yourself.

Positive affirmations are effective. As your frustration grows, your inner voice becomes self-critical, demeaning, and angry. Pay close attention to that inner voice so that you are aware of how pervasive it can be.

Replace the negative self-talk with some positive affirmations. This may necessitate some effort and faith in the power of positive thinking. Here are some ideas:

  • “I’m doing my best, and that is all that matters.”
  • “I am a good, kind and loving individual.”
  • “I have faith in myself.”
  • “I believe in myself to do the right thing.”
  • “I accept responsibility for my mistakes.”
  • “I forgive my family members for their bad decisions.”

7. Accept your situation

Your caregiving journey is one-of-a-kind. It is not flawless. Acknowledging your flaws and resentments will enable you to progress.
You are capable of changing and improving you situation, which will be easier to accomplish if you let go of the need to be perfect. Accept your own experience and avoid comparing yourself to others.

8. Learn to forgive yourself

Forgiveness is the conscious act of letting go of resentment. Consider it a journey rather than a destination that will take some time.

Forgive yourself, other family members, or the person you care for for your negative emotions. This does not imply that things have been forgotten, but rather that you recognize and acknowledge someone’s actions.

9. Reach out

Reaching out to others can provide you with a point of view, assistance, and a sense of belonging and community. Making connections with others makes you feel less lonely and secluded.
Some people turn to friends, counselors, or religious leaders to help them unburden themselves or seek advice. Some also join caregiver support networks, either online or in person, to seek alternative coping strategies. You might be surprised to learn that many other caregivers experience resentment.

10. Take regular breaks

It is critical to schedule breaks, and there are several options for doing so. No one will likely do it for you if you do not create in breaks for yourself.

Consider adult daycare or even a brief stay in assisted living for your patient. Request a regular, time-limited stay with a member of the family or trusted friend for your loved one so you can go for a walk or do some personal shopping. During these breaks, plan anything and everything that can help you reduce caregiver burnout.