Dealing with Caregiver Burnout

Being a caregiver can be very rewarding, but it also can cause great stress.

According to the AARP, a staggering 42 million Americans―that’s one in four adults―face challenges of caring for an adult friend or relative, and 36 percent of family caregivers characterize their situation as “highly stressful.”

Because of the responsibilities that come with caregiving, caregivers often neglect their own physical and emotional health because they are focused on caring for their loved ones. They also may be placing unrealistic expectations on themselves, thinking that they can do it all and, therefore, refusing to ask for help.

“Often caregivers believe that all the time, effort and energy they’re putting in will have a very positive impact on the health and happiness of their loved one, and often it does,” says John Mastronardi, Executive Director of the Nathaniel Witherell. “However, this may turn out to be unrealistic in cases where the loved one is suffering from a progressive disease such as Alzheimer’s.”

Other times, caregivers become frustrated by the overwhelming needs of their loved one, or the financial and other resources needed to care for someone.

“This, and the lack of control or resources can contribute to severe burnout. The caregiver becomes utterly drained,” he adds. 

Signs of Caregiver Burnout and What You Can Do About It

Burnout is usually manifested by anxiety, depression, emotional and physical exhaustion, irritability, sleeplessness, and anger. When that occurs, it’s important to recognize what’s happening, take a deep breath and a step back, and find ways to refresh yourself. Here are a few suggestions about what you can do to relieve the stress:

  1. Ask for help. This might come from someone in your family, a neighbor, or a close friend – someone you feel comfortable speaking freely to.
  2. Set realistic goals and understand you may not be able to do it all by yourself; you may need help, which can come from clergy or local chapters of national organizations, or social workers and other professionals.
  3. Understand and be realistic about your loved one’s condition. There may come a time when you will need a skilled nursing facility or home health services to provide the care they need.
  4. Set aside time for yourself during the week. Pamper yourself for a few hours.
  5. Stay healthy, exercise, and eat a healthy diet.
  6. Join a caregiver group.

For more information, feel free to reach out to the Witherell at 203-618-4200. We’re here to help!

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