In the United States, approximately 53 million adults provide long-term care to someone with disabilities. The amount of care these individuals require can range from minimal help with their daily living activities to round-the-clock medical care. Most caregivers are family members or close relatives, and family members who actively care for a relative often don’t self-identify as a “caregiver” and tend to ignore the genuine possibility that they might be suffering from caregiver burnout.

Caregiver burnout is a rising phenomenon exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. Many adults with developmental disabilities who would typically go to a day program have seen their services shut down indefinitely. Many children with special needs who would normally attend school have been at home due to school closures. Without that respite, their primary caregivers can quickly become overwhelmed.

caregiver

Signs of caregiver burnout

Caregivers are often so focused on taking care of their loved ones that their well-being suffers. Many times they don’t seek help until their physical or mental health is in crisis. Some signs that you may be suffering from caregiver burnout are:

  • Constantly feeling overwhelmed or worried

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Insomnia

  • Severe mood swings

  • Becoming easily agitated

  • Losing interest in favorite activities

  • Experiencing frequent headaches or stomach issues

  • Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, including prescription medication

Caregiving by nature is a stressful job, but too much stress can harm your health- especially over a long time.

Risk factors

When people live with the person they provide care for, they are at higher risk for caregiver burnout. Many people end up in the caregiver role because they volunteered, while others find themselves in the position by default and can end up with feelings of resentment.

Another risk factor is if the person you’re caring for requires round-the-clock care. It can become physically and emotionally taxing after a while, especially if there is no respite or backup caregiver available.

Caregivers with a history of depression or other mental health issues have a higher risk of developing caregiver burnout. Those who may be struggling financially may also be at risk, as they tend to have less access to resources and support.

Managing caregiver burnout

The emotional and physical demands of caregiving can take a toll on anyone, no matter how infallible they think they are. It’s essential to be proactive and, if possible, prevent caregiver burnout from happening at all. Since it’s not always feasible to stop it altogether, there are some ways to make it easier to manage.

Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t, and set realistic goals. Prioritize tasks, and make lists. It’s important to establish a daily routine, but caring for someone full-time can be overwhelming and unpredictable. There will be days when only the most important tasks get done, and it’s ok to be ok with that.

It’s also ok to set boundaries and say “no” to requests that you know will cause undue stress.

Accept help when it’s offered. Caregivers are so used to taking care of others that it’s hard for them to recognize when they need some help. Be specific in what you need, whether it be respite care, meals, picking up groceries, or help to catch up on routine housework.

Find a good support network. Many areas have local caregiver support groups, which can provide encouragement and validation since the people in the groups understand what you’re going through. These types of groups can also provide local resources along with emotional support.

As a caregiver, it’s essential to take advantage of any resources and tools available to help you provide the best care possible for your loved one. If you’re experiencing any symptoms of caregiver burnout, contact Serene Health to speak to one of our counselors. We offer convenient Telemedicine appointments via our unique app so you can have a session from the location of your choice. Call Serene Health at 844-737-3638 or visit us at www.serenehealth.com to schedule an appointment.