Caregiver burnout: Learn to recognize the signs

Caregiver burnout: Learn to recognize the signs

Caregiver burnout: Learn to recognize the signs

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Caregiver burnout Learn to recognize the signs

Burnout and empathy fatigue are significant challenges for family caregivers and professionals who help older adults living with dementia. Also, burnout and fatigue can cause depression, despair, and hopelessness, among other things.

Assisting loved ones can leave care partners feeling exhausted — physically, mentally and emotionally.

So how can you prevent caregiver burnout? Most importantly, how can you recognize signs that you may be at the brink of burnout?

Here are eight signs and symptoms. When you see them, be sure to ask for additional help or arrange for someone to care for your older loved one so you can have a needed break.

1. Denial

An early sign of burnout is holding false hopes that your loved one will be cured. Unfortunately, there is no cure yet for dementia. Even with proper memory care, an older loved one with Alzheimer’s will never “get better.”

That can be extraordinarily difficult for a family care partner to accept, leading to feelings of guilt and helplessness.

Taking a person-centered approach to providing care for your loved one — spending time together, closely watching expressions or gestures for signs of discomfort, and soothing fears — will help you come to terms with the diagnosis so you can focus on your remaining time together.

2. Forgetting

Depression and caregiver fatigue can cause lapses in concentration. And that can be dangerous when you’re providing care.

Did I give Mom her medicine this morning?

If you can’t remember and give her another pill, you could cause a harmful overdose. But if you didn’t, what will happen if she doesn’t get the medication she needs today? That could be just as harmful. If memory lapses harm your ability to render care, you need a breather.

ECH-Care-Setting-C_9469For memory care residents at Episcopal Church Home, there's so much to enjoy and engage in with neighbors just beyond their studio apartment.

3. Anxiety

You can’t be an effective care partner if you’re suffering from anxiety. You won’t be able to make clear, rational care decisions for your loved one.

If facing your loved one and providing care fills you with dread the first thing every morning, or what-ifs keep you awake at night, you need to enlist help. Being overwhelmed will prevent you from caring for your loved ones. There are groups and organizations that can help you carry the load.

4. Irritability and anger

Anger is almost always rooted in feelings of fear or helplessness. When we know we can’t change a tough situation, we tend to lash out. It is hard to acknowledge that a disease cannot be cured and dementia has only one possible outcome.

If you allow yourself to admit there’s no way you can change that tragic fact, you’re less likely to feel angered by it. You can focus instead on the positive aspects of providing care: spending time with your loved one, recording and preserving what memories they still retain, and feeling a sense of fulfillment that you’re able to comfort them.

Related Blog: 65+ fun ways to share time with somebody who lives with dementia

5. Exhaustion

If you feel tired all day, no matter how much sleep you’ve had, or begin to suffer chronic aches and pains, you’re probably experiencing burnout. You won’t be able to help your loved one if you’re foggy or physically drained.

It might help to sign your aging loved one up for adult day care. These programs allow family care partners to have a few hours to themselves daily — to work, run errands, or relax — while their relative with dementia is cared for in a safe, secure, and positive social environment.

Related Blog: Where to Find Support in Louisville When a Loved One Has Alzheimer's or Dementia

6. Withdrawal or avoidance

Staying in the house, not engaging with friends or with other family members, or feeling no joy in activities that used to make you happy are all signs that you’re suffering from depression associated with severe caregiver burnout.

It's typical that when we are caregivers for a spouse or parent, we tend to be isolated in the first place, as we spend so much time caring for them. That's one reason joining a support group for those living with dementia and their care partners can be so helpful — it gets you both out and interacting with other people, and in particular, people who are having some of the same experiences and feelings that you are. Talking with others also is very important for the person with dementia, because conversations are good exercise for the brain that may help slow dementia's progress.

Related: Suggestions for how dementia care partners can get support 

7. Feeling like you don’t care what happens next

If you catch yourself saying, or thinking, “I don’t care,” you need to ask for help.

When family members cannot help themselves, those care partners can’t allow feelings of indifference or resignation to creep in. That leads to poor outcomes for everyone.

8. Feeling like you want to hurt yourself or others

This is a red alert. You need caregiving assistance, fast. A short stay for your loved one, or a move to a residential memory care community may be in order.

If you feel you want to hurt yourself or others, you need space to heal. There’s no shame in that. Caregiving isn’t easy. It can be overwhelming. It can ultimately be a rewarding experience, but to understand how and why, talking with a professional therapist can help you navigate those negative feelings.

If you're having such feelings right now, help is available through the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Just dial the three digits 988.

Related blog: Don’t let guilt keep you from considering Memory Care

Are you suffering from some of the signs of caregiver burnout?

Episcopal Church Home can help.

We offer personal care, skilled nursing and memory care, if your loved one is beginning to need more care than you can provide on your own. If you’re suffering from empathy fatigue or caregiver burnout, let us help you and your loved one. Reach out to us today.

This blog includes some previously posted material.

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Mike Rutledge

Mike Rutledge

Mike Rutledge has been Content Marketing Specialist for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS) since early 2022. He writes articles, blogs and other information to inform people about things happening at ERS’ retirement communities of Marjorie P. Lee an... Read More >

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