While being a rewarding profession, caregiving can often become a demanding job that may lead to burnout.
To address this concern, Marks Home Care Agency offers a unique Consumer Directed Personal Assistant Program (CDPAP), designed to empower both caregivers and clients by fostering a supportive environment.
This resource aims to help caregivers navigate the challenging aspects of their profession, with an emphasis on preventing caregiver stress.
Recognizing the signs of caregiver stress and taking steps to prevent it are essential for maintaining a healthy working environment. In addition, learning how to cope with stress and implementing strategies for self-care can make a significant difference in the well-being of caregivers and their clients.
In the following sections, readers will find practical tips and suggestions on how to prevent caregiver stress, ensuring a harmonious and efficient working relationship for all parties involved.
What Is Caregiver Burnout?
Caregiver burnout is a state of mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion caused by caring for someone else. When caregivers experience burnout, their attitude toward their work may change, they may feel less engaged, and be consistently stressed.
While everyone can experience burnout from their job, caregivers have an extra layer of stress because they have a responsibility to care for someone who cannot care for themself. The weight of this responsibility can be hard to handle at times. Combined with an excessive care schedule, it can lead to caregiver stress and burnout.
Main Risk Factors for Caregiver Stress
Some caregivers are more at risk for burnout than others. Below are the top risk factors that lead to caregiver stress.Being a Caregiver for Family Member
Being a caregiver is difficult enough, but being a caregiver for a family member is another level of emotional stress. Family members who are caregivers often have no choice in the matter.
Many families cannot afford in-home care, forcing a close family member to take on the immensely stressful role. So many aspects of caring for a family member are difficult. It’s hard to see someone you love in a poor or weakened state, the caregiver may live in the same home, meaning there is no break, and they usually have no formal education as a caregiver.
Working More Hours
Working extensive hours at any job will cause burnout, but the physical and emotional effort involved with caregiving makes extra hours even more detrimental to the caregiver’s wellness. In addition, caregivers must be attentive throughout their entire shift, so if one of their clients needs more hours, this requires more mental and physical stress.
Lacking Skills for Solving Difficult Situations
Unfortunately, only some are ideal candidates to be a caregiver. The best caregivers are inherently compassionate, patient, and empathetic. Sometimes, communicating with seniors who are unhappy or have mental disorders is immensely challenging and can become frustrating quickly if you don’t have the right disposition.
Caregivers also need to have a level of medical knowledge to help a senior in the event of an accident or episode. Not having these skills makes the job substantially harder, leading to sooner burnout.
Having Fewer Years of Formal Education
Suppose the caregiver needs more formal education in the profession. In that case, they will need more preparation for difficult situations. Formal caregiver education teaches coping mechanisms, medical knowledge, and problem-solving skills that can help caregivers do their job better and avoid becoming a caregiver overwhelmed by their responsibilities.
With this formal education, they may be prepared for the true responsibility and potential stress of being a caregiver, leading to sooner burnout.
How to Recognize Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout
If you’re not sure if you’re burnt out or if a caregiver in your life is, look for the following signs of caregiver burnout.
Feeling Anxious and Tired All the Time
Feeling tired and anxious constantly is a sure sign of burnout. The anxiety stems from the inability to take a real break and refresh yourself, so you feel like you’re always on the precipice of collapsing.
And being tired is a sign that you’re working too many hours and your body is so mentally and physically exhausted that a normal night’s rest is not enough to rejuvenate you. A caregiver may experience feelings of alienation, hopelessness, or loss of control, all of which can contribute to anxiety.
Losing Interest in Everyday Activities
Suppose you’re losing interest in the things you used to enjoy doing, like cooking, exercising, or seeing friends. In that case, you may be falling into depression. Caregivers who experience burnout exhaust all their physical, emotional, and mental energy caring for their patients, leaving them with nothing in the tank when the day ends.
Emotional and Physical Exhaustion
Emotional and physical exhaustion are the most obvious signs of caregiver stress and burnout. For example, suppose you find yourself too wiped out to laugh at something funny or engage in simple small talk. In that case, this indicates emotional exhaustion, where you have no energy to engage in social or emotional activities.
Emotional exhaustion often goes hand in hand with physical exhaustion. Even if you get eight hours of sleep a night and eat well, emotional and mental exhaustion will eventually begin to affect your body, making you feel lethargic and depleted.
Having Physical Problems and Pain
Caregivers who experience physical pain are likely burnt out and their body is trying to tell them it’s time to slow down and take a break. The physical pain can come from their physical responsibilities, such as lifting the patient, bathing them, and helping them exercise. These rigorous activities, especially with a larger patient, can cause muscle and joint aches.
However, physical pain can go beyond that. Burnt-out caregivers experience increased cardiovascular problems, headaches, abdominal cramps, and other symptoms. So the stress doesn’t just take a toll on their mental and emotional wellness, but it also impacts their physical health.
Becoming Easily Irritated and Aggressive
This sign of caregiver burnout is one of the most common and also one of the worst. As mentioned, caregivers must practice patience, empathy, and compassion. But the more burnt out they get, the less patience, empathy, and compassion they have for the patient and everyone around them.
A simple patient request that wouldn’t have bothered them before now enrages them. They can’t offer proper and kind care to their patients if they don’t take care of themself first. Unfortunately, when this happens, the patient receives the irritation and aggression, which can break the patient-caregiver trust.
What to Do to Prevent Caregiver Stress
Below are some things you can do to prevent caregiver stress from taking over, so you can continue to be a caregiver and a healthy human.
Setting Realistic Goals and Expectations
Caregivers are amazing and generous people, but they’re not superheroes. Like anyone else, they need time for self-care and leisurely activities. No matter how much you care about your patients, you cannot work seven days a week for 14 hours a day. So you need to set a reasonable schedule and stick to it. Otherwise, you and the patient will suffer.
Knowing and Accepting Your Limits
It’s common for caregivers to feel guilty when they can’t do something for a patient. But again, caregivers are only human. No one is perfect, and you can only do what your body and mind will allow you to do. Pushing yourself beyond your limits is when burnout starts. It’s important to acknowledge and accept your limits and believe you are doing the best you can.
Joining Caregivers Support Groups
Before you experience burnout, join a caregiver support group. It can be hard to explain the intensity of your job to people in your life, but fellow caregivers know exactly how you feel.
These support groups can offer encouragement, validation, and a space to vent freely. Or cry if you need to. In addition, these groups are a judgment-free zone where you can relieve some of your mental and emotional stress.
Asking for a Professional Help
Because caregivers dedicate their lives to helping others, they often struggle to ask for help themselves. But reaching out to a therapist or doctor to help you manage burnout and prevent it. While they may not be caregivers, they understand the pressure of being a healthcare worker and can give you medications or strategies to not only cope but thrive as a caregiver.
Taking Advantage of Respite Care Services
Respite care can provide short-term relief for primary caregivers, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of local respot care services.
In-home respite services, short-term nursing homes, adult care centers, and senior programs can offer you a break from your caregiving duties. Respite lets you look after yourself and get better, so you can be the best caregiver possible again.
Where You Can Turn for Help
As mentioned, there are many places you can turn to for help. If you’re struggling as a caregiver, your best options for relief and support are:
- Caregiver support groups
- Prescribed medications (if necessary)
- Respite services
The True Benefits of Being a Caregiver When Done Right
While this article may not make caregiving sound rewarding, it is. It can be immensely fulfilling when caregivers accept their limits and ask for help when they need it. Below are the benefits of being a caregiver when you avoid burnout:
- Feeling of purpose
- New skills
- Flexible work schedule
- Wonderful clients
- Sense of giving and helping
- Connected to humanity
There is no doubt that caregiving can be stressful and exhausting, but most people report it being a positive experience that brings them happiness.
A caregiver overwhelmed by their duties cannot flourish, but a caregiver who cares for themself as well can do wonders to improve someone’s quality of life.
So if you’re a caregiver, remember to care for yourself too, and if you need a special advice, don’t hesitate to contact Marks Home Health Care agency.