Caregiving is a unique profession. It takes a special person to deal with all of the issues that one deals with in the caregiving career. For some, it is something they do for a loved one who can no longer care for themselves. For others, it is a job that they do because they enjoy helping others.
Still, despite the enjoyment they get out of helping people in need, we often hear them say things like:
“I’m just exhausted.”
“I’m irritable all of the time, and I don’t know why.”
“I just want to be my mother’s daughter again.”
These sentiments expressed by good-hearted caregivers illustrate the tension and anxiety, even depression that many in this field experience. These feeling are reasonable and understandable and many struggle with the concept of failure. They think they have failed because they are in need of support themselves from managing a loved one’s health.
To anyone reading this who is a caregiver. We understand the frustrations that you may experience. Being a caregiver takes a lot out of you. The frustrations in communicating with, caring for, and taking care of the needs of someone who can no longer take care of themselves is difficult. But you have not failed. The overwhelming feeling you have is just a natural part of the job because you put so much into your work.
If you are having these feelings, you need to seek help before your caregiver fatigue leads to more serious conditions that can affect your health or the well-being of your loved one. Stress can make you become too negative and this can carry over to the person you are trying to care for which can damage your relationship. Learn to recognize the signs of caregiver burnout so you will know what to do if you experience it.
Find Relief from Caregiver Burnout
Caring for a loved one can be overwhelming emotionally. You may be experiencing burnout if you often feel any of the following:
- Depression or negative thoughts
- Fatigue or excessive tiredness
- Highly emotional status or mood swings
- Irritability without a clear cause
- Resentment for your situation or your loved one
- Anger toward your loved one
Some caregivers also experience physical symptoms such as:
- Muscle aches
- Sleep disorders
- Loss of apetite
- Mental fatigue
If caregivers have a regular job during the day or even work at home, they may experience an increased lack of focus and other factors that start to get in the way of their work and productivity. If you are not getting enough sleep during the day, you will have problems staying awake and being as focused as you need to be. If your work quality suffers, you could lose your job or have problems doing your job the way you should.
You could say that being a caregiver produces a mental paradox. While you enjoy being able to care for your loved one and don’t want to face the alternative of bringing in an outside person or having to put your loved one in a nursing home, you feel the extreme pressure of cultural and societal expectations, as well as your own high morals and values about how you should care for your family or loved one.
This can add to the feeling of guilt during the times that you wish that you could do something else or feel the need for relief from the responsibility. This can cause further cognitive dissonance by creating a feeling of guilt and fear that clashes with the feelings of love and responsibility you have for a loved one.
How Can Caregivers Find Relief?
When it becomes overwhelming, you need help. Many caregivers find help, understanding, and support from caregiver support groups. There are many online support groups who offer caregiver support. You can find this help from local community centers, senior centers, and churches as well as online support groups. Here, you can feel safe to express your feelings of stress and get advice on how to handle it from others who understand.
Adult Daycare Centers
Adult daycare centers may provide affordable respite care for your loved one when you need a break. Respite care is meant to serve as a mental break from the stresses of caring for your loved ones by providing everything they need while you are away. This is also a chance for your loved one to socialize with others who share their predicament, which is important to their mental health. There are over 600 Area Agencies on Aging throughout the United States who can connect you to support groups, as well as adult facilities, and other local senior care resources.
Hiring in-home Health Caregivers
One solution for dealing with the stress of life as a caregiver is to hire an in-home caregiver who can help you deal with the many issues you face every day that add to the stress. Families are often afraid that the cost will be too much to bear. But you do not have to have someone live in your house in most cases all of the time. Just having someone come in two or three times per week can take a lot of the stress away.
What can caregivers do?
Caregivers can do everything from visiting with your loved one so you can get some other things done or they can help with bathing or other personal care needs in many cases. They are licensed as a caregiver in order to perform various tasks. But you need to check the policies of the organization you are dealing with to find out what they will do.
Using another caregiver once in awhile can give you a needed mental break or allow you to run errands or do other things such as a hobby or seeing your friends.
It is important to communicate to your loved one that they are loved, even though they struggle with everyday tasks due to dementia or other health issues. Aging adults feel they are burdens to their primary caregivers which can cause them to feel depression or guilt. By sharing the job with other professional caregivers, you will be able to have a needed break without feeling that you are being disloyal or neglecting your loved one.
It’s normal to feel frustrated, guilty, or helpless at times. Dementia and other mental and physical illnesses can take its toll on you, as well as your loved one. You need to find time for yourself, too in order to be the best for your loved one. The primary goal is to keep your relationship intact and to enjoy the time you spend with your loved one. By sharing the responsibility, you can rejuvenate yourself and be even better when you return.