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How to Deal with Caregiver Fatigue & Burnout

caregiver fatigue

Understanding Caregiver Fatigue So You Can Thrive in the Long Run

When you care for your family member or friend, or are in a position of an employed caregiver, there are serious risks of experiencing burnout or caregiver fatigue. From respite care to adult day care, to working in nursing homes or as home health aides, the symptoms of caregiver burnout do not discriminate. You carry a lot on your shoulders that can affect your emotional and physical wellbeing.

Family caregivers find caregiving even more intense as they have a unique position as caregivers as well as family members. It’s worth noting that the way a caregiver feels is just as important as the care that’s being given to a recipient and so it’s important to understand the signs of caregiver burnout, to find ways to prevent burnout, and to stay healthy yourself.

You don’t have to give into the symptoms of caregiver burnout and go to unhealthy reliance on alcohol and drugs, but instead, you can take good care of yourself by practicing self care with things like support groups, leaning on friends and family, and more. Caregiver fatigue can happen to any type of caregiver, so it’s vital to understand how to deal with this issue in a healthy way.

Understanding the Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout & Fatigue

The signs of caregiver burnout are things that often creep up slowly into your life. Many caregivers are focused on the immediate needs at hand to care for a family member or friend, or even paid care recipient, that you don’t even realize that fatigue and burnout have crept in. As a result, many caregivers don’t always take the good care of themselves that they need. The more you understand the core symptoms of caregiver burnout, the better you will be equipped to address it head on in your own situation.

Here are some of the common signs of caregiver burnout and caregiver fatigue to be on the lookout for:

  • Feeling down, hopeless, helpless, and depressed
  • Struggle to sleep well
  • Lower immune system and increased sickness
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Physical exhaustion and emotional exhaustion
  • Less interest in hobbies, activities, and pastimes you once enjoyed

While the signs and symptoms are not always the same in each situation, if you notice more and more symptoms being true in your life, it may be time to seek out ways to support your own emotional and physical health. Awareness and self-reflection can be a huge key to stay healthy in all aspects of life.

Ways to Prevent Caregiver Burnout

Once you recognize and understand the signs of caregiver burnout and fatigue, it’s important to be proactive to prevent burnout from escalating even further. You want to thrive, not just survive. Here are just a few practical ways to prevent caregiver burnout:

  • Support Groups: Look in your area for local, or virtual, support groups that include other caregivers. Many groups are set up for caregivers of specific types of situations like caring for memory care patients, cancer patients, and more. Support groups can be extremely beneficial for family caregivers who are carrying a very logistical burden related to care of a family members.
  • Respite Care: See if your situation could benefit from respite care, which can provide relief for a few afternoons a week or smaller chunks of time, allowing the main caregiver to get a break.
  • Adult Day Care: Depending on the situation, adult day care could be a great option to provide some relief for the primary caregiver while still providing care for your loved one.
  • Seek Out a Family Member or Friend: Pursue relationships and friendships outside your caregiving role that will allow a listening ear, an outlet for advice, and a fun diversion of your attention. Your brain needs a break, and your emotional health will benefit from having this kind of outlet as well.
  • Take a Break: Consider ways you can get a break, whether that’s hiring respite care or home health aides to fill in while you take a short vacation or afternoon out. Look for ways to pursue a break. It’s vital you do what you need to to recharge.

Pursue Health and Stay Healthy

As much as we want to find our identity in our jobs, the reality is that you should be focused on keeping yourself healthy proactively, which will in turn, help you prevent burnout. Above, we discussed many reactive measures you can take to prevent burnout, but the best prevention is to be proactive about staying healthy yourself.

Exercise: Get moving and stay moving. Not only will you be stronger to help with any of the physical tasks associated with your job as a caregiver, but you will also find yourself feeling more confident and energized by meeting goals and getting endorphins pumping.

Eat Healthy: A well-balanced diet will help you stay healthy and ward off any infections floating around. Not only does this help you on a personal level, but staying healthy allows you to stay more consistent with your care recipient, rather than needing to be out suddenly for health reasons.

Meditate: Your mindset is so important how you as a caregiver feels. It can change your entire outlook on a situation. Meditation can help ground you on your core values, while also helping you decompress and separate your work life from your personal life.

Find a Hobby: You need an outlet and hobbies are simple ways to have a purpose or activity that has little crossover with your daily caregiving role. You can combine some hobbies to support both your mental and your physical well-being, such as running, dance classes, or yoga. However, other activities and hobbies can be beneficial as well. Music has been found to help lower stress. Even doing something simple, like working on a jigsaw puzzle, can be amazing outlets to bring purpose to your day that is separate from your caregiving responsibilities.

Prevent Caregiver Fatigue and Burnout in the Long Run

Home health aides, aides in nursing homes, respite care workers, and more all experience exhaustion from time to time, but when momentary exhaustion leads to prolonged fatigue, burnout can become a reality very quickly. If you find caregiving life-giving, you may one day find it a cause of your own stress and burnout. No one is immune to these risks. That’s why it’s so important to stay aware, stay proactive, and stay on top of your own wellbeing.

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