Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

"Caregivers are the blessings for someone in real need." Being able to cope with the strains and stresses of being a caregiver is indeed a part of the art of caregiving.

Someone has rightly said, "Caregivers are often the casualties, the hidden victims. No one sees the sacrifices they make." Sometimes caregivers suffer from a condition known as Caregiver burnout where there is an exhaustion, i.e. physical, mental and emotional exhaustion that may also make the caregivers change from being positive and caring to negative and unconcerned. In order to remain healthy and continue the work of a caregiver, one needs to know ways to cope up with the condition and also know things to avoid caregiver burnout.

In this article, we will talk more about the Caregiver burnout, where we will discuss about the symptoms, causes, risk factors and ways to cope up with caregiver burnout and also ways to avoid the same.

What Is Caregiver Burnout?

Caregiver burnout can be defined as a state of extreme exhaustion physically, mentally, and emotionally. This brings about a drastic change in the overall approach and attitude of the caregiver towards the patient from being caring to being unconcerned. This generally occurs when caregivers, do not get the required help that they must, or if they try doing more than what they can actually do, either physically or financially. Someone suffering from caregiver burnout may experience fatigue, anxiety, stress and depression. Many caregivers dealing with caregiver burnout even feel guilty of not spending enough time with their ill relatives or patients.

What Are The Symptoms Of Caregiver Burnout?

Generally the symptoms of caregiver burnout are similar to the symptoms of depression and stress. Some of the symptoms might include the following:

  • Withdrawal from family and friends.
  • Loss of interest in activities that they enjoyed previously.
  • Changes in appetite, weight or both.
  • Feeling blue, irritable, helpless and hopeless.
  • Changes in their sleep pattern.
  • Getting sick more often.
  • Feeling of self harming or feeling to harm the person they care.
  • Excessive use of alcohol or sleeping pills.
  • Emotional and physical exhaustion.

What Are The Three Stages Of Caregiver Burnout?

1st Stage: Frustration:

The first stage of a caregiver burnout is frustration. Here, the primary caregiver shows signs and even at times tend to express feelings of disappointment and frustration due to not being able to see any kind of positive progress in the overall condition of the patient. The primary caregiver has problems in accepting the fact that the care given to the patient and the effort that the caregiver is putting in has nothing to do with the health status of the individual.

2nd Stage: Isolation

The second stage is of Isolation. Here, the primary caregiver struggles too hard in maintaining a sense of purpose in working so hard to provide care. The caregiver tends to feel lonely at being criticized or unappreciated by the members of the family of the patient when they see no significant improvement in the health of the patient. The primary caregiver is unable or unwilling to reach out for help from others.

3rd Stage: Despair

The third stage of caregiver burnout is the Despair. Here, the caregiver feels helpless and adrift. The primary caregiver thus cannot focus becomes less effective as a caregiver. The caregiver no longer gets motivated with the progress of the patient or feels bad if the prognosis is bad. As a result of this, the caregiver neglects personal health, care and well being, and also loses interest in social contacts and respite activities, like reading books, watching television or other stimulating activities.

What Are The Causes Of Caregiver Burnout?

Caregivers in most of the cases get extremely busy with their patients that they tend to neglect their own health be it physically or mentally. This can result in fatigue, hopelessness and ultimately, caregiver burnout. Below are some other causes of caregiver burnout.

Confusion in the Role that they Play:

Many people are not able to clearly comprehend the role that they need to play when they are given the responsibility of being a caregiver. Hence it becomes difficult for an individual to differentiate between their roles as a spouse or a partner to that of a caregiver.

Lack Of Control:

Many caregivers get frustrated due to a lack of money, resources, and also skills to plan, manage and organize effectively for caring their loved ones.

Unrealistic Expectations:

There are also many caregivers who expect that their involvement as a caregiver would have a positive effect on the health and happiness of the person they are caring. This may be unrealistic for patients who are battling progressive ailments such as Alzheimer or Parkinson disease.

Unreasonable Demands:

Sometimes caregivers put excessive pressure on themselves when providing care as this becomes their topmost priority and they feel responsible if anything impacts the overall health of the patient.

Other Factors:

In some instances a caregiver is not able to even recognize that they are battling caregiver burnout and reach a stage where they are not able to carry out their responsibilities effectively. This may even have a negative effect on their health.

How To Cope Up With Caregiver Burnout?

Being a caregiver is a real tough task. Sometimes neglecting self, caregivers meet with several health issues, and primary one being caregiver burnout. You need to know that if you are feeling stressed, depressed, confused or anxious, you need to talk to your doctor and get yourself properly diagnosed and treated at the earliest.

Below we have mentioned some of the ways to cope up with symptoms of caregiver burnout.

  • Talk about your feelings, problems and frustration with someone you trust, maybe a friend or a co-worker.
  • Be realistic and know that you might require support and help in caregiving. Seek help from others when required.
  • Participate in a support network.
  • Establish as special time for meditation.
  • Get a weekly massage and that would keep you relaxed.
  • Engage yourself with some creative hobbies.
  • Be realistic and accept your loved one’s disease, especially if it is a progressive disease.
  • Take care of yourself first. Do not neglect your health while taking care of others.
  • Talk to a professional, therapists or social workers who can help you deal with your issues.
  • Take advantage of respite care services, that provides a temporary break for caregivers.
  • Educate yourself about the illness of the person you are taking care of. This would help you take an effective care. Also educate self about caregiver burnout, know the preventive measures and take the best steps to avoid it.
  • Eat right, exercise regularly, sleep well and remain healthy.

Conclusion:

We know that being a caregiver is filled with stress and anxiety, and a caregiver can suffer from a burnout at any point of the time, while caring for others. So, it is essential that caregivers are forewarned and guard well against this debilitating condition. The best way to take care of others, is to take care of yourself first.

"You are a brave-heart and are being loved. Love yourself, take care of self; so that you can make others smile with your care."

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: December 28, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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