It’s an inevitable aspect of caring for an adult parent: caregiver burnout. This emotional and physical issue is a common problem among the 65 million caregivers nationwide who spend an average of 20 hours per week caring for their chronically ill, disabled or aging family member or friend.
Causes of Caregiver Burnout
Burnout has a wide variety of causes. One common cause of burnout is role confusion. When an individual takes on a caregiver role, it can be difficult to separate their role as caretaker from other roles they play in their life such as: spouse, friend, parent, etc. This lack of separation results in a decline in the quality of their other relationships. Spouses and friends often feel ignored or that they’re being treated like a patient instead of a loved one, due to caregiver transference.
Another common cause of burnout is unrealistic expectations. Many caregivers become discouraged and burn-out when they realize their involvement in caring for their adult parent doesn’t have a significant positive impact. This is particularly common when the person being cared for has been diagnosed a progressive disease such as Alzheimer’s.
Family members can also have unrealistic expectations that contribute to burnout. They often don’t understand the complexity and level of commitment required of the caregiving family member. External pressures from loved ones puts additional strain on the caregiver’s relationship with their senior patient and other family.
Signs & Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver burnout can be displayed through a wide variety of symptoms. Some of the most common caregiver burnout symptoms include fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression. The side effects of these symptoms are often easier to identify than the feelings themselves:
- Loss of interest in hobbies, friends and family
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Increased occurrences of becoming ill
- A change in eating habits, weight or both
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Inappropriate use of alcohol, sleep medications or other mind-altering drugs
Guilt also plays a large role in caregiver burnout. Care takers often experience guilt when they spend time on themselves as well as for the emotional symptoms they’re experiencing.
Combating Caregiver Burnout
Caregivers and their support team should be aware of their stress level in order to identify when burnout is a potential issue. AARP offers an online caregiver stress quiz to help caregivers identify their level of stress.
Caregivers should be proactive about caring for themselves. Caretakers can benefit from joining a caregiver support group. These groups allow a place to learn new information about caring for an aging parent as well as an environment where the caregiver can feel comfortable expressing their stress and frustration with their role as a caregiver.
Burnout can also be combatted by through a reality check. Caregivers must accept the negative feelings they hold about their caretaker role and the person for whom they provide care. Feelings of frustration, anger, resentment and despair are normal for someone who has taken on a caregiver role. Accepting these feelings and finding healthy way to cope with them is essential to avoiding caregiver burnout.
Another option for caregivers of adult parents concerned with burnout is to enlist assistance. Care Assist Solutions provides in-home care solutions for seniors. Having a professional come to care for your aging parent allows the caregiver a guaranteed break from their duties. Caregivers should be encouraged to use this time to focus on themselves.
Contact us to learn more about our unique in-home care solutions that can help protect the primary caregiver in your family.