Friends and family members assume the role of caregiver for many reasons. In some cases, a senior loved one begins to experience a gradual decline in health. An adult child or close friend may initially step in to assist with small tasks. They might pick up a few groceries, mow the lawn, or take the senior to the doctor. As the older adult’s health worsens, the caregiver finds themselves taking on more and more responsibilities.
Other times a person becomes a caregiver when someone close to them is recovering from an injury or surgery, has a chronic disease, or is diagnosed with a life-limiting illness. Depending on the type of assistance the loved one requires, the caregiver may start to feel overwhelmed. They may be called on to help with clinical duties, such as wound care, medication management, and continence care.
As the average age of people in this country rises, an increasing number of adults are becoming unpaid caregivers. In fact, according to a 2015 report on caregiving in the U.S. cited by the Family Caregiver Alliance, an estimated 43.5 million caregivers delivered “unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months.”
The physical, emotional, and financial toll created by these responsibilities can cause the caregiver to experience a crisis of their own. Knowing the signs of caregiver burnout is essential for assessing your risk.
Caregiver Burnout Statistics
Caregiver burnout is a serious health issue that shouldn’t be ignored. Left untreated, it can lead to depression, diabetes, obesity, and other medical conditions. It’s all too common for caregivers to end up in worse health than the care recipient.
Just how many people feel their health has suffered because of caregiving duties?
Caregiver burnout statistics can be startling. Research shows an estimated 17% of caregivers say their health has gotten worse as a result of their caregiving responsibilities. After 5 years of caregiving, that number climbs to 20%. Spouses are likely to suffer the most, with 27% of spousal caregivers rating their own health as poor or fair. This is possibly because they are older themselves.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
What are the symptoms of caregiver burnout? They might not be as easy to recognize as you would hope. Sometimes subtle signs of caregiver burnout, such as fatigue and insomnia, are easy to overlook. Others are easier to distinguish and could indicate severe caregiver burnout or compassion fatigue.
A few of the common warning signs of caregiver burnout include:
- Unintentionally gaining or losing weight
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Easily becoming angry or tearful
- Losing interest in hobbies or pastimes
- Feeling despair or sadness
- Getting colds and minor illnesses easily
- Developing bad habits (e.g., smoking or excessive drinking)
It’s crucial to take steps to prevent caregiver burnout before it develops into a serious concern, or if it does, to learn how to recover from it.
Caregiver Burnout Prevention
How can you avoid caregiver burnout? Prevention involves practicing healthy self-care and learning how to reduce and cope with stress. Here are a few suggestions:
- Get up 10 minutes earlier to give yourself a few minutes of quiet time before the rush of the day begins.
- Create a list of tasks others can complete and ask friends and family for assistance.
- Explore respite services offered by local home care agencies, such as Griswold Home Care.
- Try to work two 15-minute exercise sessions into your day to help beat stress.
- Find ways to eat a well-balanced diet on the go, such as cooking in batches and freezing portions or subscribing to a home-delivery meal service.
- Join a caregiver support group, whether it is an in-person meeting or an online support group.
- Learn healthy ways to reduce stress, such as practicing meditation or using apps like Virtual Hope Box.
Caregiver Burnout Checklist
If you are wondering if you or someone close to you is at risk, this quick caregiver burnout quiz can help you decide. Ask yourself if you or the friend you are concerned about is experiencing any of these symptoms:
- Are you feeling short-tempered or more easily angered?
- Do you suffer from frequent or chronic headaches?
- Have your sleep habits changed? Are you sleeping too much or too little?
- Are you experiencing fatigue that a good night’s rest doesn’t help you recover from?
- Have you developed new stomach problems or digestive issues?
- Are you relying on unhealthy habits, such as smoking or drinking, to help you cope with stress?
- Do you have difficulty concentrating and completing simple tasks?
- Are you easily overwhelmed and quick to cry or become tearful?
- Is a lack of time causing poor nutrition and unintentional weight gain or loss?
- Do you seem to be getting into arguments with people over minor issues?
- Are you resentful of the loved one you are caring for or family members who aren’t pitching in to help?
- Have you lost touch with friends and family members you were once close with? Or withdrawn from favorite hobbies and social organizations?
If you answered “Yes” to more than a few of these symptoms, it’s likely time to take caregiver burnout seriously.
Recovering from Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver burnout can impact the entire family. It can lead to disagreements among siblings, put a strain on marriages, and cause permanent rifts among loved ones. Learning how to recover from caregiver burnout is essential for everyone in the family.
- Take a short break from caregiving: While it may not seem possible, taking a break is the first step to recovering from caregiver burnout. Whether you utilize a live-in caregiver for a week or ask a family member to stay with the senior, finding time to rest and restore is vital.
- Accept that you need regular help: Caregivers often have difficulty turning over the care of a senior loved one to someone else. They may also struggle to ask for help, or accept it when it is offered. By adjusting your mindset and coming to terms with the idea that no one can do it alone, you can start to recover from the demands of caregiving.
Finally, consider scheduling an appointment with your primary care physician. They can help identify any signs that the stress of caregiving has put your health at risk.
Resources for Caregiver Burnout
The Griswold Caregiver Resources Library is packed with helpful information and tools to make the role of family caregiver go more smoothly. From tips for coping with caregiver guilt to suggestions for managing caregiver anger and anxiety, you’ll find resources to teach you how to avoid caregiver burnout.
For answers to any questions you have about in-home care, contact the Griswold location nearest you today!