It’s a real thing! Today I met a woman who was a textbook case for caregiver burnout. It’s heart breaking to see because she is doing so many of the right things, and has a heart as big as the ocean to care for everyone but herself. She has both of her parents living with her, ages 86 and 87, both of whom have advanced dementia. Her father is aphasiac, which means he cannot speak, and her Mother wanders and gets quite aggressive and agitated. She has children ranging in age from 7 years old to 18 years old, and a husband who works full time. Her siblings all live out of town. This woman is absolutely run off her feet caring for the people in her life, and has several chronic conditions that are not well managed specifically diabetes and recurrent chest infections. Thankfully she called me to set up respite care for her parents so she can have some time to herself, or to go on a date with her husband. Unfortunately, I’m not sure a few respite hours will be enough to bring her back out of the tremendous hole she has dug herself into both emotionally and physically.
Signs of caregiver burnout to watch for:
1. You have drastic swings in your emotional state from feeling furious one minute to completely helpless and sad the next minute. You feel easily overwhelmed by the emotional roller coaster of caring for a loved one.
2. You get sick often. Stress can wear down your immune system, so if you find that you are getting sick more often and staying sick longer…your body is sending you a message.
3. You find yourself snapping at everyone. When you feel overwhelmed it is common to overreact to things that other people do. Like a toddler having a tantrum, you are probably over tired and need a “time out” from your caregiving duties.
4. You know you need to take care of yourself, but you just don’t have time. Activities like exercising, spending time with friends, doing something social, or purely recreational all take a back burner. Remember that being a caregiver is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to make time for exercise and things you enjoy.
Respite hours are a good starting point, and I’m so glad that the caregiver that I met today has realized that she needs some time to re-charge. I just hope she is able to reach out for more support from her family and friends. With caregiver burnout this extreme, my impression is that she is a ticking time bomb of serious health issues. Caregiver burnout is a real thing! There are ways to get support, and the first step is to ask. You are not alone!