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Caregiver Burnout: How to Stay Emotionally Well

Emotional Wellbeing | February 2, 2023

A happy woman holding her mother after taking steps to alleviate caregiver burnout and stress.

It’s no secret that being a caregiver is hard. It takes a lot of work and dedication to care for a loved one as they get older. While being there for your loved ones can be rewarding, it can also be an emotional journey.

As caregivers spend so much time and energy caring for others, they can forget to take some time for themselves. Taking care of a loved one can directly affect a caregiver’s mental health and physical wellbeing. Keep reading to learn more about caregiver burnout and what you can do to maintain your emotional and physical well-being as a caregiver.

What is Caregiver Burnout?

Simply put, burnout is exhaustion. Caregivers often deal with burnout after becoming overwhelmed by all their responsibilities. Taking care of a loved one takes a lot of work, and all that work can be physically and emotionally exhausting.

While caregiver fatigue isn’t uncommon, burnout takes that exhaustion to a different level. That fatigue can lead to caregivers experiencing a wide range of negative emotions. For example, sudden bouts with the following feelings are potential signs of caregiver burnout:

  • Guilt
  • Resentment
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Frustration

What Causes Caregivers to Suffer from Burnout

All of these swirling emotions and general fatigue is a lot to deal with for anyone. That’s why it’s important to address some of the root causes that can lead to caregiver stress.

Heavy workload

Taking care of elderly parents and other loved ones takes a lot of work. Handling everything from finances to long-term health care is a lot to deal with, especially if you don’t have other family members or friends to help share the work.

Conflicting demands

Most caregivers have more to worry about than just their aging parents. You typically have to worry about spouses, children, work, and other important needs as well. Trying to juggle all these responsibilities can add a lot of unavoidable conflicts and stress.

Skewed expectations

It can be hard to know what to expect when you become a caregiver. For example, some people may not expect what it’s like to care for someone with a progressive disease like Alzheimer’s and may have to manage stressful situations more often than they previously thought.

A lack of control

Not having access to all the tools and information leads to many frustrated caregivers. This can be especially true if you don’t have access to all the financial documents you need or don’t have all the information to make informed decisions.

Forgetting your own needs

Spending your days caring for someone else can make you forget to take care of your own needs. Some caregivers may not take any time to relax, have alone time, or do whatever else it takes to focus on your own emotional needs.

No support group

It’s important to have some form of emotional support for caregivers. Whether you want to take on the burden yourself and avoid help or don’t have other family members to assist you, a lack of support will only add to your overall stress.

How to Address and Prevent Caregiver Burnout

While stress is a very real part of being a caregiver, there are ways that you can help alleviate the pressures of taking care of your loved ones.

Talk to someone

Even if you’re the sole caregiver for someone, you don’t need to go through this journey alone. Talk to a friend, a neighbor, or someone else that you can trust when you need to vent your frustrations. Even a resource like a caregiving support group can give you the means to talk about your feelings instead of keeping any negative emotions pent up inside you.

Set realistic expectations

One person can only do so much, especially if your aging parents are dealing with serious health problems or need other forms of support. If you have multiple family caregivers, make sure that everyone’s roles are clear and communicate with each other when anyone needs help. If you need additional support, don’t be afraid to embrace professional help such as home health care services, respite care services, or different senior housing options.

Be realistic about your situation

It’s important to recognize the reality of both you and your loved one’s situation. It’s essential to realize that nobody is a “perfect” caregiver. There may be times when you need help or that you’ll get frustrated or upset. These feelings are normal, so prioritize what you can do and address what you can’t.

This outlook is especially important for when you have loved ones with progressive diseases or other difficult situations. Be realistic about what will likely happen in the future and be willing to acknowledge that you may need outside help and services at some point.

Learn what you can

The more you can prepare for taking care of your loved one, the better. Learn what you can about your parent’s illness if they have one so that you can more effectively care for them. If your parents need help with money management, find out what it takes to help them handle their finances. This extra information will help you prepare for the future instead of being caught by surprise.

Make time for “me”

Give yourself enough time to relax every once in a while. Taking care of yourself is an essential part of being a caregiver, whether that means treating yourself to a spa date or simply having an hour or two to yourself when you need a break. Caring for yourself will only help you be happier and more attentive in the long run.

Take care of your own health

If you’re dealing with caregiver burnout, it’s time to focus on yourself. Don’t be afraid to talk to a medical professional about your situation. The sooner you can address stress, depression, or other negative effects of burnout, the better.

There are also other small steps that you can take to maintain your own health. A good diet, regular exercise, and plenty of sleep can help you take care of your own physical and mental health as you take care of your loved ones.

Where Can I Find Caregiver Support?

As we said before, you don’t have to navigate the caregiving journey alone. There are a variety of resources that you can turn to for assistance.

  • Local agencies on aging or other elder support services
  • Caregiver support groups
  • Adult day cares or private care aides
  • National organizations for specific illnesses or other issues

Trying to determine the right senior living solution? National Church Residences takes an individual approach to support seniors and help them live a healthier, more satisfying lifestyle. Find out which senior living options are in your area or give us a call at 844-465-6063 to talk to one of our friendly staff members today.

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