Caregiving is stressful. But how much stress is too much? There’s a fine line between “normal” stress and a level of stress that is harmful and debilitating.
Often people say they feel burnt out, but what does caregiver burnout really mean? Five warning signs that caregiving is impacting you negatively, and you need to step back, are:
Changes in eating, drinking, or smoking habits.
We all stress eat, right? But if you find yourself eating sugar all day for weeks on end or skipping meals regularly, this is a sign of a bigger problem. It is not unusual for caregivers to increase or resume smoking or drinking to deal with the stress as well.
Self-care may suffer.
You know you should exercise, but you just don’t have the time. You can’t remember the last time you went to the doctor, let alone met a friend to do something fun. You feel guilty enjoying yourself and can’t manage to find the time to take care of yourself.
Health may decline.
The physical, emotional, and mental demands of caregiving don’t just make a person anxious and depressed, they can actually affect a person’s immune system. Are you getting sick more often or just can’t get rid of that cough? Your body is trying to tell you something. We have seen a number of cases where the “healthy spouse” ended up passing away first.
Family conflict may escalate.
Whether it is conflict with the person you are caring for or other family members, it is very common to experience more tension. Family members may be suspicious of the caregiver or concerned over the financial impact of long-term care. In addition, dementia can result in paranoia and mistrust that can then be passed on to other family members.
Caregivers under stress may feel furious one minute, then sad and helpless the next. You may feel taken advantage of, and then feel guilty for those feelings. And of course dealing with the crises that are bound to occur only make it more difficult. This emotional roller coaster takes its toll. It is very easy to overreact to situations. Common accidents become tragedies in your mind.
Caregiver burnout can have serious consequences for both the caregiver and the care recipient. If you or someone you know is teetering on the edge of caregiver burnout, what can be done? Is the solution more “me” time? More respite care? Maybe. But those fixes can often feel superficial and temporary.
Expert guidance can make a huge difference. A life care planning team can provide support and guidance throughout the long-term care journey, resulting in confidence and peace of mind. The social worker who works with our clients becomes like family to them and can be objective and serve as an intermediary to detect and address caregiver burnout.
If you have any questions about this post or any other related matters, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.