The number of Americans over 65 is expected to double by 2040. This is alarming because our infrastructure isn’t built to facilitate the growing number of seniors. This means, an increase of seniors will rely more heavily on care from their spouses and adult children.
Regardless of how much you care for someone, providing round-the-clock care for them can be exhausting, especially while your loved one is ill, injured, or recovering.
Aging parents often experience memory loss, physical disabilities, hearing loss, cataracts, diabetes, depression, and dementia. As people age, they are more likely to experience these and other conditions simultaneously.
Relatives who take on the role as caregiver may experience certain challenges as they see the needs increase over time. Through the stress of balancing their lives and providing adequate care for their loved ones while watching them slowly fade can result in feelings of resentment, hopelessness, and eventually burnout.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
When people give so much of themselves to others that they neglect their own needs, the result is often complete burnout. This is when their stress levels and the potential for physical, mental, and emotional health issues worsen, and they fail to engage in self-care practices.
If caregivers don’t take care of themselves, they’re more prone to experience burnout leading to a constant feeling of guilt.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reports that 38 percent of caregivers rate their situations as “very stressful,” and 22 percent of caregivers say they have declining health due to care. 34% of people who provide care for their families report being in “fair” or “poor” health.
Most family caregivers experience some form of emotional distress because they emphasize caring for others at the expense of their well-being.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
Some warning signs that you are starting to feel burned out from the mental and physical strain of fulfilling your caregiving duties can include the following:
1. Isolation and Withdrawal
If you find yourself withdrawing from social interactions, even with close friends and relatives, you may be experiencing burnout.
2. Reduced Interest in Activities
If you find yourself losing interest in things that formerly brought you joy, it may be time to take a vacation from caregiving for your loved one.
3. Changes In Mood
If you are generally calm but have noticed that your temper flares up more often, or if you are usually cheery but have found that you can no longer see the joy in life, you may need a rest from caregiving. If you want an accurate reading of your stress levels, listen to how you feel.
4. A Sense of Overwhelm and Hopelessness
If you have suicidal thoughts or are thinking about injuring someone close to you, you need to talk to a professional immediately. Extreme burnout and probably sadness might cause such aggressive thoughts as harming oneself or a loved one.
5. Alterations to Normal Sleep Habits
Caregiver burnout could be to blame if you’re having trouble dozing off, staying asleep, or getting enough sleep. Family caregivers may experience anxiety and sleepless nights due to concerns for their loved ones.
It’s not uncommon for caregivers to have trouble getting out of bed or sleeping too much. Sleep deprivation is a significant factor in the development of depression, exhaustion, and anxiety in 76% of caregivers.
6. Frequent Illness
Caregiver burnout is a common cause of illnesses that linger for longer than they should. Chronic stress has been linked to a wide range of significant medical ailments, including cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and gastrointestinal problems, so it’s not just that you might be sick for longer this time around.
7. Changes In Eating Patterns
You may be under great stress if you are either overeating or starving. Emotional eating, or using food to cope with feelings, is a problem for many people who go above and beyond to care for others. At the same time, others may be so anxious that they stop eating altogether.
This could make you overweight or underweight, and neither condition is good for you in the long run.
8. Frustration With Yourself or Your Loved One
Caregiving is stressful and can cause outbursts of anger and other negative emotions in some people. The cumulative effect of stress, anxiety, and guilt may make you feel like you’re about to collapse.
If you feel your annoyance or anger rising, it may be best to step away from the situation and give control to someone else. A retirement community might be considered if there are no close friends or relatives who can help.
Caregiver Support Resources – Get The Help You Need Today
Here are some places where family caregivers can get information, support, and direct services:
Eldercare Locator (1-800-677-1116)
A countrywide program connects seniors and their caretakers with trustworthy local assistance options.
Family Caregiver Alliance (800-445-8106)
FCA’s services, educational programs, and resources are designed to aid caregivers in meeting their challenges.
National Family Caregiver Support Program
The National Family Caregivers Support Program (NFCSP) offers numerous services to aid home caregiving.
National Alliance for Caregiving (+1 (202) 918-1013)
The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) is a nonprofit group that researches, develops new care methods, and advocates for policies that benefit family caregivers and those who rely on them.
Caregiver Action Network ((202) 454-3970)
Caregiver Action Network (CAN) is a national nonprofit that helps family caregivers across the country by providing them with free training, peer support, and informational materials.
AARP Family Caregiving (877-333-5885)
This organization gives you access to data on topics of importance to caregivers. In addition, there is a toll-free helpline for caregivers and downloadable resources, including care guidelines and legal checklists.
National Institute on Aging (800-222-2225)
NIA provides a large selection of articles on various geriatric concerns. These concerns could include caregiving issues such as long-term care, Alzheimer’s caring, long-distance caregiving, etc.
Alzheimer’s Association (800-272-3900)
The Association provides abundant resources for those living with Alzheimer’s and those who care for them. In addition to a toll-free hotline accessible around the clock, the organization also hosts in-person support groups and community-based workshops.
Although providing care for others is often incredibly gratifying, it may also be exhausting if you don’t also care for yourself. Give yourself time to relax, pursue your interests, and accept assistance when you need it.
If you’re already suffering from the effects of caregiving stress such as exhaustion, hopelessness, or sleeping problems, lean on the people you know and trust and look into the resources we’ve provided above.
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