As the population ages, more laypeople will be pushed to the front line of caregiving. While caring for a loved one or family member can be rewarding, it can also be very overwhelming and demanding in a way that you don’t expect. If you don’t stay on top of your own well-being you can end up being as vulnerable as the person you are giving care to. According to a study published by The New England Journal of Medicine, 67% of caregivers helping a loved one post-discharge, reported high levels of depression symptoms initially, and 43% had symptoms a year later.
According to helpguide.org learning to recognize the signs of caregiver stress and burnout is the first step to dealing with the problem.
Common signs and symptoms of caregiver stress include;
- Anxiety, depression, irritability
- Feeling tired and run down
- Difficulty sleeping
- Overreacting to minor nuisances
- New or worsening health problems
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling increasingly resentful
- Drinking, smoking, or eating more
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Cutting back on leisure activities
Common signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout include;
- You have much less energy than you once had.
- It seems like you catch every cold or flu that’s going around.
- You’re constantly exhausted, even after sleeping or taking a break.
- You neglect your own needs, either because you’re too busy or you don’t care anymore.
- Your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction.
- You have trouble relaxing, even when help is available.
- You’re increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you’re caring for.
- You feel helpless and hopeless.
Furthermore, they suggest tips for maintaining your role as caregiver in a healthy and positive way;
- Embrace your caregiving choice. Acknowledge that, despite any resentments or burdens you feel, you have made a conscious choice to provide care. Focus on the positive reasons behind that choice.
- Focus on the things you can control. Rather than stressing out over things you can’t control, focus on the way you choose to react to problems.
- Celebrate the small victories. If you start to feel discouraged, remind yourself that all your efforts matter. You don’t have to cure your loved one’s illness to make a difference. Don’t underestimate the importance of making your loved one feel more safe, comfortable, and loved!
- Speak up. Don’t expect friends and family members to automatically know what you need or how you’re feeling. Be up front about what’s going on with you and the person you’re caring for. If you have concerns or thoughts about how to improve the situation, express them—even if you’re unsure how they’ll be received. Get a dialogue going.
- Spread the responsibility. Try to get as many family members involved as possible. Set up a regular check-in. Ask a family member, friend, or volunteer from your church or senior center to call you on a set basis.
- Maintain your personal relationships. Don’t let your friendships get lost in the shuffle of caregiving. These relationships will help sustain you and keep you positive. If it’s difficult to leave the house, invite friends over to visit with you over coffee, tea, or dinner.
- Prioritize activities that bring you enjoyment. Make regular time for things that bring you happiness, whether it’s reading, working in the garden.
- Make yourself laugh. Whenever you can, try to find the humor in everyday situations.
- Eat well. Nourish your body with fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean protein, and healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil.
- Don’t skimp on sleep.
- Join a support group.
While caregiving can be a truly rewarding way to give back to the generation before you, you have to be smart about how much you can help another person. If you feel that you just can’t take on the full responsibility, seek professional caregivers to help you with part-time care or respite care. Adding a few hours a day of outside assistance can make all the difference in quality care for you and your loved one.
Broad Street can help. We provide Personal Assistants for full-time, part-time or respite care. In addition, through our Professional Network, we can provide other professional services such as social workers and support groups. For more information, please call 847.728.0134.