What Is The Best Way To Prevent And Treat Caregiver Burnout
Whether you already feel exhausted, burned out, and need help now or want to prevent future burnout, there are steps you can take to feel better. Caregiving experts say that eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep are critical to your health and well-being. But those are just the basics.
Here are more ways you can care for yourself to reduce or prevent burnout:
Caregiver Stress And Compassion Fatigue
Caring for someone with a mental health problem like bipolar disorder or ADHD can be overwhelming. Learn how to deal with caregiver burnout.
As the parent of a child with high needs, the lives of all involved are complicated. It’s very easy to become hyper-focused, over-involved, and unable to separate “self” from “situation.” This is very common, normal, and at the same time, dangerous.
The very things required to function within the daily life of caring for a child or other family member with exceptional needs can lead to feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. If unchecked, these feelings build leaving one vulnerable to getting stressed over things that were once not stressful. This can be further complicated if the caregiver has a diagnosis of, or tendencies towards depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or other similar mood disorders.
Where Can I Turn For Help For Caregiver Burnout
If you are already suffering from stress and depression, seek medical attention. Stress and depression are treatable disorders. If you want to prevent burnout, consider turning to the following resources for help with your caregiving:
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/13/2019.
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Caregiving In The United States
If you are a caregiver, youre certainly not alone. You are one of millions of Americans who have stepped up to the role for someone else.
Caregivers can be spouses, partners, relatives, friends, or other persons that have significant personal relationships to the older adult. They provide a broad range of assistance on a regular basis to those suffering from a chronic/disabling condition or other physical/mental health problem. These individuals also may be secondary or primary caregivers and live with, or separately from, the person receiving care.
The majority of caregivers provide help in many aspects of the older adults daily routine, such as bathing or performing household chores. They also may assist with medical or nursing tasks, such as injections, tube feedings, and catheter and colostomy care.
For further information on caregiving, here is data collected by the CDC.gov during the period of 2015-2017:
- 22.3% of adults across the U.S. reported providing care or assistance to a friend or family member in the past 30 days
- One in three caregivers have provided 20 or more hours per week of care
- Over half of caregivers in the U.S. have given care or assistance for 24 months or more
- 10.4% of caregivers reported providing care or assistance to friends or family members with dementia or other cognitive impairment disorder
Because of this workload, your physical and mental wellness become a cause for concern:
Items About Your Mindset
51. I have felt trapped by my work as a helper.
52. I have joyful feelings about how I can help the victims I work with.
53. I think I am a failure as a helper.
54. I have a sense of worthlessness/disillusionment/resentment associated with my role as a helper.
55. I think I am not succeeding at achieving my life goals.
56. I have happy thoughts about those I help and how I could help them.
57. I remind myself to be less concerned about the well-being of those I help.
58. I am losing sleep over a person I helps traumatic experiences.
59. I might have been infected by the traumatic stress of those I help.
60. I have suddenly and involuntarily recalled a frightening experience while working with a person I helped.
61. I have a sense of hopelessness associated with working with those I help.
62. I have felt on edge about various things, which I attribute to working with certain people I help.
63. I have experienced intrusive thoughts during particularly challenging times.
64. I avoid specific thoughts or feelings that remind me of a frightening experience.
65. I avoid certain activities or situations because they remind me of a frightening experience.
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How To Explain Caregiving Burnout To Others
Telling someone youre burnt out can be tricky for caregivers, especially when youre talking to the person youre caring for. Here are some tips to help the conversation go more smoothly.
- Be honest: If youre worried youre burnt out, be honest about it with yourself and others. The sooner you acknowledge it and ask for support, the sooner you can start to recover.
- Be specific: When youre talking to someone about your burnout, try to present it in terms of what, specifically, youre feeling and what you suspect is the driving force behind it .
- Avoid blame: Even if you think a specific individual is the root of your stress, the reality might be more complex. Try not to point fingers or assign guiltincluding to yourself. You can do this by framing things in terms of what you feel or need, and avoid bringing up things the person you’re talking to might have done in the past to contribute to your burnout. All of that is behind you. Now focus on the future.
- Stick to solvable problems: The person youre talking to might want to help. So, give them concrete ways they can. Ask yourself what stressful things could be taken off your plate or set aside for a while. Could someone else drive your loved one to healthcare providers appointments so you can have a little time to yourself? What about arranging a housekeeping service or a steady rotation of home-cooked meals? Not every challenge youre facing will have a simple solution, but some will. Sometimes you just have to ask.
How Can Hero Help
When it comes to caregiving responsibilities, managing a loved ones medication can be stressful and time-consumingespecially when their condition requires them to take five or more different pills a day6.
Without help, it’s easy to get lost and disorganized. After all, each medication must be taken at a specific time each day. Some can be consumed with food others cannot. Some cant be mixed, or they can cause serious adverse events7.
Whats more, missing doses or taking meds at the wrong time can impair treatment outcomes, so following your doctor’s and pharmacist’s recommendations becomes absolutely crucial7.
So, how do you manage a complex regimen when you already have so much on your plate?
Heros end-to-end medication management service can help take all the stress out of medication management, so you can focus on other responsibilities and self-care. Heros award-winning automatic pill dispenser holds up to a 90-day supply of 10 different medications, and alerts you its pill time with a sound and a blinking light. All you have to do is press one button, and it will dispense your dose!
The dispenser comes with a medication management app that allows you to add a medication list, receive pill-time reminders and missed-dose alerts, and track your loved ones adherence. Hero can even deliver your refills to your door at no extra cost, so you can say goodbye to those countless pharmacy trips!
Learn more about how Hero takes the hassle out of taking meds here.
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Who Is More Likely To Experience Caregiver Burnout
Anyone can experience caregiver burnout, but some caregivers may be more vulnerable due to added external pressures. At-risk populations include:
- Those caring for a spouse.
- Those caring for someone with dementia.
- Caregivers under financial stress.
- Caregivers juggling caring for an aging adult with raising a child, so-called sandwich generation caregivers.
What Is The Difference Between Burnout And Compassion Fatigue
There are significant differences between caregiver burnout and compassion fatigue.
In a nutshell, burnout is when youre physically and emotionally exhausted from work. Compassion fatigue is when you feel overwhelmed by the emotional stress of caring for others, like I did when I was trying to help my parents.
Also, it takes time to hit the burnout stage, while compassion fatigue usually comes on quickly.
Breaking it down further, compassion fatigue is is when you still have the capacity to give, but you no longer feel the motivation to do so. When youre so focused on caring for others, its easy to forget to take care of yourself.
While its important to be compassionate, its also important to set boundaries and take time for yourself. Otherwise, youll end up feeling overwhelmed and stressed out and long-term caregiving will be very difficult.
Burnout, on the other hand, is a bit different. Burnout is when youre so stressed that you cant function anymore. Its a state of complete physical and emotional exhaustion youre completely depleted, both physically and emotionally.
Everyone experiences stress from time to time, but if youre constantly feeling overwhelmed, it could be a sign of burnout.
So how can you tell the difference between burnout and compassion fatigue?
Additionally, compassion fatigue can also be characterized by feelings of cynicism and detachment, whereas burnout is more likely to involve feelings of hopelessness and despair.
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Take Care Of Yourself
Self-care is essential for keeping yourself healthy, and its necessary if you want to provide excellent care for your loved one.
- Prioritize your relationships. Dont neglect your friends and loved ones, as theyre your support They will sustain you, keeping you happy and hopeful.
- Get out of the house. If possible, get out of the house as much as possible. Go to coffee with a friend, or take a trip to the movies. Depending on the illness, you may be able to take your patient out with you for walks. Staying cooped up in a house all day is a recipe for disaster.
- Staying active can go a long way in making you feel better throughout the day. It combats sluggishness and keeps you working at peak performance. If you can only squeeze on one or two small workouts a weak, thats better than nothing.
- Eat well. Dont let your healthy diet get lost in the business of the job. Practice a good diet, including lots of fruits and vegetables and fewer trans-fats and sugars. An easy way to do this is to make a habit of creating healthy meals for you and your loved one and eating them together. This fosters a good relationship while keeping you healthy.
Join The Fight For Policy Change
What we actually need to do is question and advocate, be involved on any level that we can, as we begin to prepare for the growing aging population, says Dozan. It can be a tweet, it can be a post, it can be a text, it can be an email, she says. Elevating your voice in whatever way you can is significant. Because we are significant.
Policy changes currently being considered include the Build Back Better Plan, which proposes a $400 billion investment in home- and community-based services. That will really help in caregiver relief, home support and in-home resources for family caregivers as they support their loved ones, Dozan says. Caring Across Generations also advocates for individual employers to introduce policies that better support family caregivers, including allowing flexibility in when employees do their work, providing technology and support to make it easier to work from home, and not asking employees to justify the need for time off.
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Symptoms Of Caregiver Burnout
Depression and anxiety are the most common symptoms of caregiver syndrome. The caregiver may withdraw from family, other loved ones, and friends, and lose interest in previous activities. Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and sadness may accompany the loss of interest.
Caregiver stress can take a physical toll. Loss of appetite and weight may occur. Changes in sleep patterns and emotional and physical exhaustion are common. These changes may also result in uncharacteristic irritability and anger. The caregiver may even become sick themselves. Chronic caregiver stress can cause health issues like frequent headaches and body pain, high blood pressure, diabetes, a compromised immune system, and other medical problems.
How Do You Assess For Compassion Fatigue
As I mentioned in the introduction, there are several tests to assess for compassion fatigue. Some are administered by mental health professionals, while others are easily taken on your own (we have one you can check out in the following section.
Here is a little more info on some of the various available tests.
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Ask For Caregiving Help
Taking on all of the responsibilities of caregiving without regular breaks or assistance is a surefire recipe for caregiver burnout. Dont try to do it all alone.
Look into respite care. Enlist friends and family who live near you to run errands, bring a hot meal, or watch the patient so you can take a well-deserved break. Volunteers or paid help can also provide in-home services, either occasionally or on a regular basis. Or you can explore out-of-home respite programs such as adult day care centers and nursing homes.
Speak up. Dont expect friends and family members to automatically know what you need or how youre feeling. Be up front about whats going on with you and the person that youre caring for. If you have concerns or thoughts about how to improve the situation, express them, even if youre unsure of how theyll be received. Start a dialogue.
Spread the responsibility. Try to get as many family members involved as possible. Even someone who lives far away can help. You may also want to divide up caregiving tasks. One person can take care of medical responsibilities, another with finances and bills, and another with groceries and errands, for example.
Set up a regular check-in. Ask a family member, friend, or volunteer from your church or senior center to call you at a regular time . This person can help you spread status updates and coordinate with other family members.
Lack Of Professional Training
In many cases, caregivers havent received training and are caregiving in their free time.
Without support navigating the health system, understanding health conditions, and understanding what to expect, how to plan, what to ask doctors, how to respond to resistance to care and other common challenges, caregivers are at very high risk of burnout, which is harmful to themselves as well as their loved ones who need them, Fine explains.
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Remotely Delivered Information For Caregivers
A 2021 Cochrane review found that remotely delivered interventions including support, training and information may reduce the burden for the informal caregiver and improve their depressive symptoms. However, there is no certain evidence that they improve health-related quality of life. The findings are based on moderate certainty evidence from 26 studies.
How To Prevent Caregiver Fatigue
Self-neglect is one of the biggest causes of caregiver fatigue, along with feelings of powerlessness. And its no surprise that many caregivers feel this way they are often thrust into the role without much of an option, and patients often dont get better.
But there are ways to keep yourself happy and hopeful. Try practicing the following tips:
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What Are Three Signs Of Caregiver Stress
I was a caregiver for both of my parents during the last years of their lives. As much as you love your family members and want to help, its a stressful job! This happens for several reasons and often creeps up on a caregiver slowly, until they are overwhelmed and unsure of how they got there.
What are three signs of caregiver stress?
- Feeling frequently worried or often feels overwhelmed.
- Disconnecting from loved ones and loss of interest in things you used to enjoy.
- Physical problems, such as headaches, upset stomach, diarrhea, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, fatigue or weight changes.
Learn To Delegate Outsource Or Postpone What You Can
You dont have to do everything yourself. In fact, you shouldnt. When you write out your to-do list or look at your calendar, think about what tasks you really need to do yourselfand what you can let go of, pass on, or hire out.
Asking for support is not a failure, and accepting help doesnt mean you cant hack it. This actually isnt about you at all its about ensuring your loved one is cared for. And you cant care for them if youre too busy doing everything else.
Some things you might be able to delegate or outsource include:
- Transportation to and from appointments
- Keeping your loved one company so that you can rest or recharge
- Running errands, like going to the pharmacy or picking up medical supplies
- Yard work or other home maintenance
- Managing other volunteers
And before you worry that coordinating all this help is just another thing you have to do, tools exist to help you stay organized. Apps like Lotsa Helping Hands, for example, let you set up a calendar where people can sign up to bring meals or drive your loved one to appointments.
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Join A Caregiver Support Group
A caregiver support group is a great way to share your troubles and find people who are going through similar experiences each day. If you cant leave the house, many online groups are also available.
In most support groups, youll talk about your problems and listen to others talk youll not only get help, but youll also be able to help others. Most importantly, youll find out that youre not alone. Youll feel better knowing that other people are in the same situation, and their knowledge can be invaluable, especially if theyre caring for someone with the same illness as your loved one.
|Local vs. Online Support Groups for Caregivers|
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