There are over 2.65 million caregivers in Australia right now, and the number continues to grow. The good news is that there is increasing awareness about caregiver burnout. Have you heard of it?
There are many positives to home care. You can feel satisfied that your loved one is receiving the help they need. You may also feel a sense of purpose because you are caring for someone who cared for you.
However, it is also natural to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and a whole range of other emotions. It is essential to acknowledge that caregiving is not always easy. Then, you can start to take steps to manage caregiver stress and prevent burnout.
This guide covers all you need to know about carer burnout and what to do about it.
What is Caregiver Burnout?
Caregiver stress can build up over time. Maybe it starts with a fear home care will not work out, a sense of grief, or you do not receive any gratitude for your work. Perhaps it is the fear of your loved one deteriorating.
If the stress in carers is not acknowledged, it can start to take its toll. This is what eventually leads to burnout in carers.
Burnout is when you have reached a point of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. It can also bring a negative or hopeless viewpoint.
At this point, you need to stop and take action. Otherwise, it is a negative situation for you and your loved one.
Signs of Caregiver Stress
While caregiving comes with a lot of responsibility, it is important to be attuned to warning signs of stress. Once you notice caregiver stress, you can take action not to let it escalate further.
Some signs of stress in caregivers include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep problems
- Using compensatory behaviours like drinking
- New or worsening physical health problems
- Anxiety and low mood
- Lower tolerance and patience levels
You may notice one or more symptoms of stress. And it important to know that it is natural, and you are not alone. Studies show that carers are more likely to show high levels of distress than non-carers.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
You may notice an overlap between signs of caregiver stress and burnout, or your symptoms may worsen over time. However, here are some signs you have reached caregiver burnout:
- Feeling hopeless and helpless
- Constant exhaustion
- Inability to switch off
- No interest in leisure activities
- Feeling resentful or need to escape
- No sense of satisfaction
- Neglecting self-care
- Social withdrawal
If you are at the point of caregiver burnout, it is okay. You now recognise it and can take steps to prevent it from worsening. Before you know it, you will improve the situation for everyone involved.
Prevent Caregiver Burnout and Stress
Self-care is more important than ever. Most people live in societies where it was natural to work long hours, feel stressed, and not take time out. It was considered normal and part of life.
However, in recent years, there has been more focus on caring for yourself to care for others. There are ways you can manage symptoms of stress and burnout.
Take a Break
Taking a break will give you the restoration you need. You can ask friends or family to help. You can communicate your needs, so they are aware you need support.
Or, you can also consider professional providers of respite home care. It can be as a one-off or frequently to get the break you need.
There are usually different options to pick, such as overnight stays or respite for a few hours. You can be assured your loved one is in safe hands in their familiar environment. There are also day centres and programs, too.
During your break, make sure you do activities you enjoy, such as hobbies. Having a change of scene will also remind you of things you enjoy away from caring.
You are not alone, but sometimes you have to voice your struggles so people know what you are going through. This does not mean you have failed. It is brave to be vulnerable.
Letting people know how you feel can also help bring joy and lessen the burden on you.
Reach out to a friend or a loved one. You can start by writing your feelings down if you do not feel able to voice them in person.
There are also online support groups that you can look into. For example, Dementia Australia has an online community, helpline, and educational resources.
Manage Your Health
Do not neglect your own mental and physical health. Find ways to maintain a healthy diet, hydrate, and enough sleep. It may seem simple or maybe overwhelming, but it will do wonders for your wellbeing.
If you need to go to the doctor or dentist, do not neglect it! You need to be in good health to care for your loved one, so stay attuned to health changes.
Also, do self-care activities. It could be reading a book you enjoy, having a massage, or taking an extra five minutes in the shower. Maybe start a gratitude journal, or watch a funny movie to laugh at.
Exercise is also vital for your physical and mental wellbeing. Take time to walk, dance, stretch and move your body. It could be a walk to get some fresh air, an online workout, or an exercise class if you get respite care.
Breathing exercises, guided meditation, or listening to relaxing music can also bring respite and calm.
You need to look after yourself to care for others. If you know the signs of caregiver stress and burnout, you can take steps to manage them. It may take time to learn what steps work best for you, but persist, as it will bring benefits for you and your loved one.
Caregiving can be inspiring and rewarding. When you learn how to prevent carer burnout, you will remember the joys of home care. And you will remember who you are outside your carer role.
If you need in-home respite services now, book a consult with My Care Solution today. My Care Solution is a family-run provider of premium in-home aged care services in Adelaide and Victor Harbor.