Caregiver Burnout - Causes & Prevention

January 17, 2023

The elderly population in the United States represents approximately 36.5 million people at least 65 years of age; about 5 million are 85 years or older. An estimated 1.5 billion Americans will be 65 years and older by 2050. 65% of people requiring long-term care rely on family and friends to assist, while others may use the services of professional caregivers. 

According to the above statistics, caregivers are in greater demand in professional and non-professional capacities. The stress of caregiving can negatively impact your health and state of mind, leading to burnout or physical exhaustion if left unchecked.

What Is Caregiver Burnout? 

Psychologists define burnout as a "debilitating psychological condition brought about by unrelieved stress." It is a state accompanied by emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion. It is common for caregivers to neglect their emotional and physical needs while caring for others. 

This condition can lead to a change in attitude toward patient care, lack of empathy, and general lack of interest in work, mainly when no significant improvements occur.

Detecting Caregiver Burnout

To solve a problem, you need to detect it first and promptly. When you notice the following changes, burnout might be setting in; 

  • Lack of drive and energy.
  • Sleeping issues (Oversleeping or inability to sleep)
  • A feeling of hopelessness.
  • Losing interest in the things you usually enjoy.
  • Depression. 
  • Not giving adequate care and attention to yourself and your needs. 
  • Feeling you lack control over your life. 
  • Your patient irritates or agitates you quickly 
  • Lacking patient empathy. 
  • Withdrawal from family and friends.
  • Lack of appetite. 

 A feeling of hurting yourself or a loved one might also be present. 

What Are The Leading Causes of Caregiver Burnout? 

Among other factors, the primary reason you might experience burnout as a caregiver is your inability to pay attention to your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs/health. Naturally, your role as a provider will take so much of your physical and emotional energy. 

If you ignore your mental health, burnout will eventually occur. 

Other contributing factors to caregiver burnout include: 

Lack of control

Limited resources, skills, or money can make patient care challenging to handle, and the inability to control this can eventually lead to burnout. 

Unreasonable demands

Do not be a caregiver that places unrealistic expectations on themselves. This tends to happen when you see providing care as your exclusive responsibility, i.e., taking full responsibility for patient recovery. 

While you have a role to play in your patient's recovery, you must understand that other factors (possibly beyond your control) also play a role in your patient’s recovery.

Inability to strike a healthy work-life balance

Many find it difficult to separate their personal life from their responsibility as a caregiver. Suppose you can't balance your caregiving role and other duties (parental, spousal, friendships, etc.). 

In that case, you will find yourself in a perpetually overwhelming and confusing state, leading to burnout. 

Protect Yourself From Burnout

To prevent burnout, take the following proactive measures;

Have realistic expectations

Accept your limitations and accept that you may need help with caregiving. Never hesitate to turn to others for help with some tasks.

Practice acceptance

Learn to understand and accept reality instead of dwelling on things beyond your direct control. Dwelling on the uncontrollable won't make you feel any better. Instead, it will make you lose sight of what you can control.

Never allow the demands of caregiving to take over your life: Strike balances where needed. It may seem unrealistic, but asking for help where possible will enable you to achieve the required balance you need to maintain sound mental health. Eventually, your sound mental health plays a significant role in your patient's recovery. 

Celebrate your effort

Even when you don't see a noticeable improvement in your patient's health, learn to celebrate and recognize your efforts. Remind yourself how much you are contributing to your patient's well-being.

 A more practical approach is to list how your caregiving has been helping your patient and refer back to it each time you feel discouraged. 

Speak up

When you are under stress or in need, don't assume your friends or family knows if you don't communicate. Let them know when you or your care-receiver is in condition. 

When you need assistance, speak; when you have unexpressed emotions, release them in the best way possible. Bottling up emotions will do you more harm than good. 

Give yourself breaks and vacations when the opportunity presents itself. It helps you reflect and refresh. Being busy and productive can be unproductive. Giving yourself quality time will make you effective while performing your duties as a caregiver.

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