Understanding Caregiver Burnout
In the realm of elderly caregiver burnout, the story of Lakshmi stands out. Since the last 10 years I have known Lakshmi, she has been a paradigm of caregiver stress syndrome, juggling caring for her mother with a full-time job and looking after her family of 3.
We used to work together but she decided to go part-time last year and now does freelance work. We are good friends and talk about nearly everything under the sun. Lately, she has become quite negative and despondent.
One day she told me that she wished that the day-in and day-out responsibilities of caregiving would just end, relieving her and her mother both. As we talked, she suddenly felt extremely guilty for wishing death upon her loved one and burst into tears. This guilt and despondency is common in stages of caregiver burnout.
She expressed how caring for her mother had not only been satisfying to a certain extent but was emotionally exhausting for the most part. She told me how all of her relatives called her merely to check up on her mother and she felt extremely neglected, all her colleagues and friends had drifted away as she couldn’t keep up with the hectic schedule along with looking after her mom, but that wasn’t the only hurdle she came across she also mentioned how this disease had affected her relationship with her mother to a certain extent and she missed the bond they had. These signs of caregiver exhaustion can significantly impact their health and effectiveness.
Laxmi told me how she kept suppressing whatever she felt which at the end of the day only resulted in negative emotions towards her loved ones, all that she thought she would be doing in her life was slipping away.
Financial and Social Challenges in Caregiving
Giving up on things was just the start of it all, she also experienced heavy financial strain due to the healthcare expenses.
Healthcare is normally the primary expense of all families, along with this she also needed to cover many other expenses from tuition fees to household bills which were getting a bit difficult lately. Economic hardships are key aspect of caregiver stress and burnout.
Most of us who are in our 40s have probably been a caregiver for another individual at some point in life. It is not a secret that caring for an older adult, especially with a chronic condition can be extremely overwhelming and exhausting.
Lakshmi also mentioned how it was becoming hard for her to stay positive as the years passed and there seemed no end to the responsibilities and expectations she had to meet. The list of the things that she had to give up on kept getting bigger by the day.
The responsibility of caregiving is also put upon women in the household as they are the ones who are expected to give things up when the time comes. The short-term and long-term goals as well as the daily routine of the caregivers all change according to the needs of the care recipient, sometimes resulting in physical and emotional well-being getting compromised. These challenges are often seen in various types of burnout in caregivers.
As I told Lakshmi, any feelings negative or positive, are bound to come up when you are caring for someone but as a caregiver, you need to know that all of your feelings are valid and that you have to deal with them in an effective way and not be reluctant to express the same.
The balance between caring for your loved one and yourself is extremely important, as caregivers we need to make sure that we don’t start neglecting our health as that would only result in us not being able to sustain our role as a caregiver for long.
Strategies for Managing Caregiver Burnout
Following things can help you as a caregiver to make it easier –
1. Self Care: Crucial Treatment For Caregiver Burnout
For caregivers grappling with how to recover from caregiver burnout, self-care is vital. Accept that taking care of yourself is necessary and useful for taking good care of the recipient. Along with caring for the recipient, caregivers also need to make sure that their health is not deteriorating in any way. Making sure you get proper nutrition and go in for regular checkups is equally important.
2. Seeking Support to Manage Caregiver Stress and Burnout
Learn to ask for help and avoid going at it alone. Build a supportive circle among family and friends. Knowing the friends and family members you can trust and confide in to help you out is extremely important. Share your burden with people you can count on, asking for help is the first step.
3. Professional Help To Overcome Caregiver Exhaustion
Negative thoughts may come from time to time. Learn how to deal with it, taking professional help is not a bad idea. Let go of the stigma associated with taking professional help, counselling might help you process and deal with your emotions in a much healthier way. Doing this will not only improve your mental health but also improve the quality of life of you and your loved one.
Supporting Caregivers to Prevent Burnout
Even if you are not a primary caregiver to elderly, you will likely know someone who is? Here’s how you can help them manage caregiver exhaustion and prevent burnout:
- Engage in Conversations About Well-being
Asking them about their well-being, encouraging them to care for themselves. Sometimes having a conversation about things is just what you need. Check in with your friends, family members or anyone you know who is caring for an older adult and gently addressing any symptoms of caregiver burnout.
- Offer Practical Assistance
Extend support, even if for small things. Caregivers often struggle to find someone to share their burden with. If you can, offer your help even if it’s just for an hour, it may be a big help to them. Taking the load off of them for even a small period of time would help them feel better and relaxed. It is a key factor in preventing caregiver stress and burnout.
- Show Appreciation and Acknowledge Their Efforts
Appreciate what they are doing. Don’t let them be the forgotten friend or family member. Always keep in mind that they also need to feel wanted and involved. Small gestures of appreciation can uplift someone experiencing elderly caregiver burnout, reminding them that their efforts are seen and valued.
- Recognize and Address Emotional Exhaustion
They don’t have to be the friend who is always absent just because of their restricted schedule, try to work something out and make them feel like a part of the circle. Be attentive to the signs of caregiver exhaustion.
For instance- maybe some days you could offer to stay back and fill in for them or work something entirely around their schedule. Words of affirmation are equally important in this case, appreciating their efforts might be a small thing you did that went a long way in cheering them up.
If you know someone around you who you think is on the verge of emotional exhaustion it is your duty to point it out and make them aware that they aren’t alone. Sometimes hearing it from another person is all one needs.
How Samarth Can Help?
If you have any caregivers in your family or are a caregiver yourself you can take this quiz to assess whether you’re headed for burnout, CLICK HERE.
If any of this resonates with your experience, or you have more ideas for other caregivers to the elderly please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your story or suggestion could inspire a caregiver or help ease another’s burden.