We know a caregiver’s life can be extremely hectic. You not only have a busy schedule, but it is now combined with the heavy responsibility of caring for a loved one. This job, which is often an unpaid act of love, can be physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing.
A caregiver can experience burnout at any time. It is not surprising that research shows us that the majority of caregivers will experience burnout at some point in their caregiver career. Burnout can be described as the point where a caregiver is “at the end of his or her rope” or simply “cannot do anything else.” This is never a reality we want any caregiver to face.
The key to preventing burnout is to recognize the signs of its onset. Let us give you six warning signs that you can use and share with your loved ones.
1. Withdrawal from friends and family.
When a caregiver is burned out, he or she most likely does not want to exert energy socializing with friends and family. This person might begin cancelling plans, ignoring calls and emotionally withdrawing from his or her family. If you notice yourself doing this or see it in a family caregiver, ask what is going on and get help.
2. Increased or unmanageable stress.
Caring for someone else can bring an entirely new level of stress to the caregiver’s life. A stressed caregiver is one who may seem overwhelmed, frantic, or shut down. While stress is a common factor in everyone’s life, high levels of stress can make caregiving next to impossible. For the family caregiver who is new to this responsibility and who may also have a job and a family of his or her own, stress can quickly lead to more serious problems.
3. Loss of enjoyment.
Many times, a family caregiver takes on the responsibility for two reasons – value system and love. Morally, it is the right thing to do to step in and take the
responsibility. In terms of love, caregiving does not feel like a job because of the love between the family members. When the caregiver loses enjoyment in taking care of a loved one and begins to view it as a chore, caregiver burnout is most likely occurring.
4. Extremely irritable.
Irritability and annoyance is a sure sign of burnout. A quick temper and lack of patience should never influence caregiving abilities. While bouts of annoyance are common, if the entire caregiving experience transforms the mental and emotional state of a caregiver, he or she is most likely burnt out.
5. Lack of impulse control.
Someone who is so frustrated or overwhelmed with the person he or she is caring for can experience lack of impulse control. For example, wanting to shake the person or yelling even when he or she has no control over his or her actions. It is important to get the caregiver help. This could be in the form of a second caregiver, respite care, or a removal from the situation.
Thoughts of self-harm or actually harming oneself is an extreme sign of burnout. When the stresses and responsibilities become too much to handle, a caregiver may feel this is the only option. Again, seeking help early, even if it is just for two or three hours a week, can make a significant impact on the life of the caregiver. Offering to make a meal or do the laundry, make a tremendous difference in the life of a caregiver.
If you are a caregiver or someone you know is a family caregiver, be on watch for these signs of burnout. No one wants to be in a situation that escalates to the point where the caregiver cannot complete the task he or she readily accepted. Do not wait to ask for help. You can start by contacting our office to set up a meeting with Attorney Amy McGarry to discuss the type of help you and your family need right now.
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