So today I want to talk about a topic that’s very near and dear to my heart: caregiver burnout.
So often this topic is skimmed over and not taken quite as seriously as I think it should be. I want to start by being open, honest, and as authentic as possible.
I have definitely experienced many of the symptoms of caregiver burnout. I can tell you that during the 1st few years as mark’s caregiver, I felt like I had things pretty well managed. When we started to get into years 3 and 4 and even part of your 5, I felt myself losing my own identity. It was a very dark time and a real struggle.
I would love to tell you that since that time I have not had any issues, but that would not be honest. I’ve just gotten better at identifying when I’m starting to slide down that hill. I know when to apply the brakes, take a step back, and change some things about my life and my priorities to get back on track.
So let’s start with identifying what exactly is caregiver burnout.
For most individuals, caregiver burnout can be described as physical, emotional, and/or mental exhaustion. For many of us, there is not often time to really identify the main cause of caregiver burn out but some of the contributing factors can include having to manage the person we’re caring for, dealing with the broken healthcare system, perhaps working outside of the home, Finances, and daily household responsibilities including cooking, cleaning, you get the picture.
So how do you know if you are dipping into the pool of caregiver burnout?
For many, the symptoms look similar to depression. Individuals can present with symptoms including decreased energy or chronic fatigue, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, neglecting themselves and their own care, decreased interest in activities that they use to enjoy, and too much or too little eating, and this can look like unintentional weight loss or weight gain, and too much or too little sleeping.
Caregivers might also experience actual physical symptoms including chronic headaches, insomnia or inability to sleep, muscle and joint aches palpitations, dizziness, uh, and digestive issues such as constipation or diarrhea.
So who is most at risk for caregiver burnout?
It’s interesting to know that there are actually increased risk factors for caregiver burnout. These factors include being female, being someone who is isolated from the outside world due to their caregiver responsibilities, those with a previous diagnosis of depression, living with the person that they’re responsible for, and those who spend the majority of their waking hours doing caregiver duties.
While all of this information is very important for all caregivers and the people who support them to understand, I also want to ensure that I’m giving you the tools tricks, and tips that helped me to pull out of my caregiver burnout.
Caregiver burnout is often a result of the overwhelming responsibility of caring for another, which unfortunately lends us to often neglect our own basic needs. So if you feel like you are on the verge of burnout or already feeling like you are suffering from caregiver burnout, here are some things I find helpful for myself and my patients and their families.
Sleep-whenever possible make sure that you are getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. While I understand that many of us can run somewhat efficiently on 5 or 6 hours of sleep, evidence is emerging that this is bad for us on a number of levels. This includes our long-term and short-term brain health!
Nutrition-we often find it difficult to understand the latest nutritional recommendations, increasing our chances of just ordering whatever is easiest and quickest. However, the latest evidence shows that our nutrition, including our gut health, is vital to our overall physical and mental health! We don’t need to make nutrition complicated, just using a little bit of common sense will go a long way. Try to eat the rainbow is the model I live by. I try to ensure that half of my plate at every meal is fruits and/or vegetables and I try to vary the colors of what I’m eating throughout the day.
Take breaks-while I understand for many of us this can be a challenge, I’m telling you that it is vitally important if you’re going to stay in the caregiver game with your own health insanity intact. While I understand for many of us because of our caregiver duties it’s impossible to take a really long break, getting up 15 minutes before the door person, taking 20 minutes to yourself while they’re napping, just stepping outside for 10 minutes can do wonders for your mental and physical health as well as the stress hormones that are often surging through our bodies At inappropriate levels.
Find support-I know I say there’s a lot, but reaching out to your local support group that lines up with whatever diagnosis your person has will be invaluable to you as a caregiver. This is not only to let others support you in your UPS and Downs during your caregiver journey, but these people have often been through the wringer, and are ready and willing to share the ways for you to avoid the pitfalls that might be in front of you down the line.
Meditation-please! Don’t roll your eyes! I know that a lot of people don’t want to meditate, feel like it’s weird, or are not comfortable with the idea of meditation. Let me explain one thing before you write me off. Meditation has now been found to be as effective or more effective than some anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications. Recent studies have shown that those who meditate have lower rates and levels of stress hormones, have a better ability to concentrate, have lower blood pressure, and feel a better sense of the quality of life than those who do not. Meditation does not have to be likely seen on TV. You don’t have to light candles, sit cross-legged on the floor, and chant your brains out. Just sitting and being still and staying in the moment even just for 2 or 3 minutes while practicing some deep breaths is all you need to Cashin on the benefits of meditation. If that seems too awkward for you, there are several phone apps, YouTube videos, and free resources just about everywhere to help you learn how to meditate in the way that works for you.
Finally, I do wanna talk about professional help because I do think it’s important for some caregivers. First, let me normalize that feeling resentment towards the person you are caring for is normal. It doesn’t make you a bad person, a bad caregiver, a bad spouse, parent, or child. It’s just a normal part of the caregiving journey.
I’m not sure that any of us chose the role of caregiver, so how could we not feel resentment from time to time?
Counseling-Attending some kind of counseling may help you to work through these feelings and feel better about your person and your caregiving role. If you’re unable to leave the house for counseling, there are several online affordable options available.
Medication-many times what we are dealing with is greater than what we are able to deal with. A theory of it in these instances if you feel that your depression, anxiety, and insomnia are unmanageable, then seek a medical provider that can write a prescription for you. There is nothing wrong with taking medication if it is needed. Often, people may find they just need the medication to get over an especially difficult time, And then they are able to come off of it down the line. If you have tried to get in with someone to be evaluated for psychiatric medication and you’ve been told that the weight is months and in some cases, I understand even a year, please don’t wait.
There are numerous places that will do online basic psychiatric care for those who need help. You don’t need to have insurance, the rates are very reasonable, and medication can be shipped directly to your house or called into your local pharma city. If you are in the state of Iowa or Wisconsin, I would urge you to jump onto my website and book an appointment and I would be happy to help you to decide if medication would be a good treatment plan for you.
Respite care-for those of you who are at a breaking point, I would like to recommend respite care. Respite care is an opportunity to place the person you are caring for in a facility so that you have time to get back on your feet and get your bearings. Often this cost is private pay and can be costly. However, you having a physical or mental break that enables you to ever carry it again would be more costly to your person and yourself. My recommendation is to do a Google search of “respite care near me”, and find out what resources are available in your area.
I’m sorry that this video was a little longer than most, but I do feel very passionately about this subject. I do want caregivers to have success in their journey and not lose themselves or their own health while doing so. As always caregivers if you have any questions or if there’s anything I can help with, I am a real person and I answer all my own emails.
Thank you for all you do, you are amazing!