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Caring for the Caregiver: Signs of and Solutions for Caregiver Burnout
Apr 6, 2018 by Toni Reinhart
If you're caring for a loved one with dementia, you've probably come to realize that it's a full-time job. As the condition progresses, the demands on caregivers can grow to the point where they can seem almost unbearable. If you're feeling overwhelmed, you may be experiencing caregiver burnout. Listed below are some signs of caregiver burnout, as well as some solutions to this common problem.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
Denying the Diagnosis
One of the first signs of caregiver burnout is outright denial. Because you truly don't want your loved one to have to suffer from such a debilitating condition, you may feel yourself reluctant to accept either the diagnosis or the progression of the disease. You might explain away or ignore symptoms. Though it may be extremely difficult to process, accepting the reality of your loved one's diagnosis is an important step in coping with your role as caregiver.
Frustration with the Patient
Coupled with feelings of denial, a caregiver can begin feeling resentment and anger towards the patient even though the symptoms are not the patient's fault. If you're in a state of denial about your parent or life partner's condition, you can begin to blame them for not being able to behave in a normal way. This frustration can not only be harmful to the patient's psyche, it can take a toll on the caregiver's well-being as well.
Anxiety and Depression
When the reality of the long-term effects of the disease begin to set in over time, caregivers can often feel a combination of anxiety and depression. They're daunted by the uncertainties of the future as well as despondent over the increasingly difficult daily routine of caring for the patient. They may feel sad when they compare their current relationship with the patient to the relationship they used to have in the past as the patient's spouse or child prior to diagnosis. Some caregivers become so depressed that they lose interest in hobbies, activities, and social gatherings altogether.
Along with the psychological effects of being a caregiver, those experiencing burnout can also start to experience physical difficulties. These can include insomnia, muscle tension, headaches, and lack of energy. If the stress of caregiver burnout continues over a long period of time it can lead to the development of nervous habits or susceptibility to infections.
Solutions for Caregiver Burnout
Learn What to Expect
If you aren't familiar with the progressive stages of the disease, it's extremely helpful to educate yourself. The more you know about your loved one's condition, the less surprised you will be when your loved one starts to experience symptoms. Understanding what you can expect when dealing with a dementia patient can help you to mentally and emotionally prepare yourself to handle any new symptoms that may present themselves.
Find a Support Network
Caregivers can often feel quite isolated from family members and friends who don't truly understand the impact of living with someone who has such a debilitating illness. That's why it's often extremely helpful for caregivers to reach out to a local support network. If you're not sure where to find one, speak with a social worker, or contact your local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.
Finalize Future Plans
One major cause of the anxiety associated with caring for a dementia patient is wondering about the future. Find a lawyer and a financial planner who specialize in providing elder-related services. They can help you cut through the red tape involved in future planning. Check out Insight Memory Care’s SHARE program. This is a program designed to help families plan for the future care needs of their loved one with dementia.
Keep Track of Your Physical Fitness and Nutrition
Maintaining your strength and energy is vital when it comes to avoiding caregiver burnout. Don't allow your focus to shift so much to the patient that you ignore your own health. Eat nutritious meals, take time to exercise, and make sure to get regular health checkups.
Set Up Regular Breaks
Focusing on the needs of the patient 24 hours a day, seven days a week can get to be too much for even the most devoted caregivers. You don't need to feel guilty about needing some time off. In fact, scheduling regular breaks could be just what you need to avoid caregiver burnout. Get help from relatives or close friends you trust. Learn about the different respite care programs available in your area.
Taking care of a person with dementia is extremely demanding. It's no wonder so many caregivers start to feel worn down by stress. If you're experiencing caregiver burnout, there's hope and help available. To find out more about stress-relieving options, speak to a trusted healthcare professional.
We’re here to help 24/7! Give us a call at (703) 424-9519 or stop by at 459 Herndon Pkwy #5, Herndon, VA 20170.
Comfort Keepers Herndon is a full-service, in-home care provider for the elderly - helping to keep your loved ones at home longer for better quality of life.