There are millions of informal caregivers in the U.S., and most care for aging-in-place loved ones aged 65+ and although serving as an unpaid senior caregiver is highly rewarding, adding the daily rigors of caregiving to an already full plate can be a recipe for caregiver burnout.
Volunteering one’s time and talents while maintaining a healthy life balance requires the ability to set limits and ask for help before it’s too late. If you are currently at risk for caregiver burnout, here’s how to identify the symptoms and get the home care assistance you need.
Caregiver Burnout Warning Signs
Regardless of their background and experience, most informal caregivers eventually reach a point when they feel overworked and overtired. For many, exhaustion, worry, inadequate resources, and strained relationships are constant companions.
The average caregiver is more likely to develop a chronic health condition, like elevated blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes than is a non-caregiver. Caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s can be challenging for even the most seasoned family caregivers.
Caregiver burnout warning signs may include:
- Sleep deprivation
- Anxiety and depression
- Difficulty performing simple tasks
- Weight gain
- Postponing or completely ignoring medical appointments
- Substance abuse
- Not exercising
- Poor eating habits
- Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Social isolation
Ignoring these symptoms won’t make them go away. If allowed to persist, caregiver burnout will affect the quality of life of both you and your care recipient.
Self-Care Tips for Informal Caregivers to Prevent Burnout
Here’s how to enjoy a healthier caregiving/life balance while taking care of family and friends:
1. Know your limitations.
Although it’s a bitter pill to swallow, no matter how hard you try your loved one’s condition will eventually worsen. Rather than allowing yourself to get overwhelmed, prioritize your daily tasks and focus on the most important ones- like getting Mom out of the house for some exercise. You’re only human, after all, so learn to accept your limitations.
2. Make healthy lifestyle choices.
If you’re sick in bed (again) because you’re not taking care of yourself, start making some positive lifestyle changes. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and avoid bad habits like smoking cigarettes or abusing alcohol. Get a complete physical every year, and don’t neglect your other medical appointments.
3. Pamper yourself.
Not everyone has what it takes to be a successful caregiver. Pamper yourself for a job well done by doing something you enjoy every week. Use your newfound downtime to learn a new hobby, go shopping, or maybe spend a few hours curled up on the couch binge-watching your favorite TV shows. Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty for taking a break from your caregiving duties.
4. Start a caregiving journal.
Another way to emotionally decompress is by keeping a daily caregiving journal. Use it to record both positive and negative experiences that you are going through- like the fact you were able to get Dad to eat everything on his plate today. When you’re having a bad day, go back and revisit the good moments while focusing on how your efforts are making a difference.
5. Schedule some “me” time.
Find time to participate in healthy stress-relieving activities like walking, swimming, Pilates, or Yoga three to five times per week. Pamper yourself at least once a month with a spa day or date night with your significant other. Seek professional counseling if negative feelings- like anxiety and depression- persist.
6. Call in the caregiving “calvary.”
Asking for help doesn’t make you a failure. To prevent burnout, seek relief through community volunteers, family members, and friends, or a meal delivery or senior transportation service. Another option you have is hiring a professional respite caregiver from a licensed home care agency.
Quality In-Home Respite Care for Seniors in Maryland.
Finding the right person to care for your loved one can be challenging when you need to take a well-deserved break. At Help at Home in Chevy Chase, we’ve provided personalized in-home care to families in the greater Washington, DC, area for over 20 years—including companion care. Our mission is delivering the most comprehensive and compassionate senior home care possible, using a unique, hands-on approach with every client and family we serve.
Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, our in-home services include personal care, transitional care, respite care, geriatric care, end-of-life care, Alzheimer’s and dementia care, and more. To learn more about our top-quality home care services or schedule an initial assessment for a senior in our service area today, please visit www.helpathomecare.com.