How to Recognize and Prevent Caregiver Burnout

Someone might call you a caretaker, but the more accurate term is caregiver. When you spend your days giving care to an elderly loved one, it can be easy to get burned out, but hard to know what to do about it. You can’t take care of anyone until you take care of yourself first, so learn the warning signs of caregiver burnout and what to do to prevent it.

Caregiver Burn Out

Signs of Caregiver Burnout:

  1. You have drastic mood swings. The difficulties of physical and emotional exhaustion are enough to make anyone moody. One minute you feel fine, and the next you’re overwhelmed and upset. It can be an emotional roller-coaster for you and your loved ones. But no matter how hard to you try, you can’t fight the pendulum swings from mood to mood.
  2. You find yourself catching every bug that comes along. Stress and overworking yourself will take a serious toll on your immune system. When you seem to be getting sick more often and unable to get well as fast as you used to, your body is telling you that you’re not taking care of it.
  3. You’re irritable. Overreacting is a sign of feeling overwhelmed and helpless. Your patience is stretched thin by dealing with more than you’re used to, and you may find  yourself snapping at anyone and everyone who gets in your way
  4. You’ve stopped exercising.  When you spend your days caring for someone else, it’s hard to find the energy to exercise. You drag yourself to bed at night and drop into a heap, and consider lifting the remote a hardship.
  5. You don’t see friends anymore. Even though you could use a break, you rarely take one. Your friends never see you, you never call and you can’t remember the last time you took time to go out and enjoy visiting with others. Caregivers often feel that they have nothing left to offer a friendship after they’ve given so much to the care of their loved one.

If you are suffering any or all of these symptoms of caregiver burnout, it’s time to recharge your batteries and do a little care-taking for yourself. Start by giving yourself a break. No one can do it all, and no one expects you to. Keep your expectations realistic and prioritize your objectives.

Call up a friend and make time to get away. You don’t have to take a two-week cruise to feel better. Just a night with friends and fun can make all the difference in the world. And don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings; sometimes just airing your frustrations to a trusted friend can be a huge relief.

Caregivers must, and I do mean must have support of their own. Friends, family, in-home caregivers and people in your community can help you and your elderly loved one. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be able to offer better care, without suffering the devastating effects of burnout.

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