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Steps for Avoiding, Recognizing and Treating Caregiver Fatigue

Self-Care Tips for Those Who Devote Their Life to Car­ing for the Sick, Injured or Elderly

Care­givers sac­ri­fice a lot for those they care for, but, often­times, neglect their own health in the process. Between help­ing with every­day liv­ing, man­ag­ing med­ical care and tak­ing care of house­hold activ­i­ties, it is no sur­prise that many care­givers feel men­tal­ly and phys­i­cal­ly exhaust­ed over time. To help pre­vent symp­toms of burnout”, we have com­piled tips to rec­og­nize care­giv­er fatigue in your­self and oth­ers, as well as how to prac­tice self-care in such a demand­ing role.

Unlike most pro­fes­sions, full-time care­givers rarely get the oppor­tu­ni­ty to sep­a­rate from their role to relax and care for them­selves, and over time, their com­mit­ment can take a toll on their over­all health and well-being. Care­giv­er burnout, or fatigue, ref­er­ences a state of phys­i­cal, emo­tion­al and men­tal exhaus­tion that aris­es as a result of being over­worked and under cared for. The role of a care­giv­er requires an emo­tion­al and phys­i­cal invest­ment in some­one else’s life, how­ev­er, over­work­ing your­self can neg­a­tive­ly affect your work envi­ron­ment and those you care for. In order to con­tin­ue to care for those who need you most, you must pay atten­tion to your own body and take care of your­self when needed.

Caus­es
Care­giv­er burnout can be the result of a mul­ti­tude of fac­tors, and often aris­es from both phys­i­cal and emo­tion­al demands. Com­mon caus­es include:

Role Con­fu­sion
When you tran­si­tion into a care­giv­er role, it is dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate your per­son­al rela­tion­ship with a rel­a­tive, loved one or friend from your job as their care­giv­er. This may cause admin­is­ter­ing tough love” and mak­ing hard deci­sions chal­leng­ing and confusing.

Unre­al­is­tic Expec­ta­tions
Many care­givers hope that their care will improve their loved one’s con­di­tion or ill­ness, how­ev­er, this is rarely the case. While com­pas­sion­ate care helps keep the ill or elder­ly hap­py and com­fort­able, it is very unlike­ly that your care alone will change the cir­cum­stances of their con­di­tion. This mind­set can be par­tic­u­lar­ly chal­leng­ing for those car­ing for some­one suf­fer­ing from an incur­able, pro­gres­sive dis­ease such as Alzheimer’s or Parkin­son’s disease.

Unrea­son­able goals
Many care­givers set unat­tain­able goals for them­selves and take on the bur­den of things that are out of their con­trol. Oth­er fam­i­ly mem­bers or friends may also expect too much from the care­giv­er, caus­ing them to become exhaust­ed and maybe even sick themselves.

Symp­toms
Symp­toms of care­giv­er burnout often stem from being over­worked phys­i­cal­ly or finan­cial­ly, and may include fatigue, stress, anx­i­ety and depres­sion. While it is com­mon for care­givers to feel extreme guilt when they take time for them­selves, rather than devot­ing all their time to their elder­ly or ill loved ones, it is impor­tant to rec­og­nize changes in their mood and/​or body. Signs to look for include:

  • Irri­tabil­i­ty and hopelessness
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Changes in sleep pattern
  • Weak­ened immune systems
  • Loss of interest
  • With­draw­al from fam­i­ly and friends

How to Care for Your­self
If you or some­one you love are expe­ri­enc­ing symp­toms of care­giv­er burnout, or want to pre­vent it in the future, take time to con­sid­er the fol­low­ing self-care options.

Sched­ule Relax­ation Time
Even if it’s only for a small peri­od of time, it’s extreme­ly impor­tant to sched­ule time to relax or par­tic­i­pate in a hob­by that makes you hap­py. Some great options include going for a walk or reliev­ing stress through yoga.

Lim­it Your Respon­si­bil­i­ties
As a care­giv­er, you must only com­mit to respon­si­bil­i­ties that you can han­dle. Over­sched­ul­ing is a com­mon cul­prit of burnout and lim­its your abil­i­ty to com­plete tasks com­fort­ably and effi­cient­ly. Allow­ing your­self enough time for each task and respon­si­bil­i­ty will help you per­form your job well and with the ener­gy you need.

Ask for Help
It’s okay to ask for help, and even a small amount of assis­tance can make a huge dif­fer­ence when tak­ing on such a large role. Fam­i­ly, friends or neigh­bors are great resources when seek­ing help you can trust. If you don’t feel com­fort­able reach­ing out to friends or fam­i­ly, there are many local hos­pice pro­grams that can offer assistance.

Join a Sup­port Group
There’s no bet­ter per­son to under­stand your sit­u­a­tion than some­one who has expe­ri­enced it first-hand. There are many online and local sup­port groups specif­i­cal­ly for care­givers that offer advice and sup­port from those with sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences and lifestyles.

Care­givers play a vital role in the health and hap­pi­ness of those they care for, and, in order to care for oth­ers, you must first care for your­self. While tend­ing to loved ones who are sick or elder­ly can feel all-con­sum­ing, it is impor­tant to slow down and lis­ten to your body. Tak­ing care of your health and well­ness will not only allow you to bet­ter han­dle your respon­si­bil­i­ties, but it will great­ly improve the qual­i­ty of care you are able to give. For more infor­ma­tion on stay­ing healthy, or to sched­ule an appoint­ment at our Break­Through Care Cen­ter, please vis­it https://​www​.dupagemed​ical​group​.com/​s​e​r​v​i​c​e​s​/​b​r​e​a​k​t​h​r​o​u​g​h​-​c​a​r​e​-​c​e​nter/.

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