While you may not think twice about taking on the challenge of caring for a loved one, it can take a toll on your emotional and physical health. This can leave you exhausted, unable to perform your duties. Here we’ll take a closer look at caregiver fatigue, what it is, and how to prevent it.
Definition of Caregiver Fatigue
Caregiver fatigue – or caregiver burnout – occurs when the caregiver feels physically, emotionally, and physically exhausted, often leading to a change in attitude. Negative feelings toward the job and the care recipient often accompany the mind state, sometimes causing feelings of resentment.
Neglecting your mental and physical health and allowing long-term stress to linger can result in caregiver burnout. When you don’t take care of your own health, it becomes impossible to properly take care of someone else’s.
Causes of Caregiver Fatigue
When you focus all of your effort and energy on caring for your loved one and neglect to take care of yourself, your health suffers. You could begin to experience negative thoughts about your task and your patients, leading to resentment and fatigue.
Factors that contribute to these negative feelings and caregiver fatigue include:
- Role strain. When thrown into a caregiver role, especially when the care recipient is an elderly parent or lover, role strain can occur. Caregivers often struggle to differentiate their responsibilities as a caregiver and their initial role.
- Unreasonable demands. The care recipient or their family members may request unreasonable things from the caregiver, which they often do because they see it as their sole responsibility. However, the caregiver is only one cog in the wheel – others must play their role too.
- Unrealistic expectations. It can be difficult to grasp with the idea that your efforts may not result in your loved one getting better. You may be able to influence their happiness and well-being, or you may not. It all depends on the type of condition they’re suffering from.
- Lack of control. Being restricted places a huge stress on the caregiver, as they begin to feel like nothing is in their control. Not having enough money to adequately take care of their loved one and not having the time to take care of themselves can lead to lingering stress.
Symptoms of Caregiver Fatigue
Identifying caregiver fatigue is the first step in treating it. The longer it goes on, the worse it’ll get for the patient and the caregiver. So, keep an eye out for the following symptoms and signs, which are similar to depressive symptoms.
- Withdrawal from friends and family members
- Lack of motivation for the job and for trying new things
- Excessive alcohol or drug use, including sleeping pills
- Missing doctor’s appointments and other responsibilities
- Being unable to fall and stay asleep
- Feelings of depression – hopelessness, alienation, helplessness, irritability
- Resentment toward the patient, possibly resulting in wanting to hurt them
How to Prevent Caregiver Fatigue
Self-neglect is one of the biggest causes of caregiver fatigue, along with feelings of powerlessness. And it’s no surprise that many caregivers feel this way – they are often thrust into the role without much of an option, and patients often don’t get better.
But there are ways to keep yourself happy and hopeful. Try practicing the following tips:
Ask for help.
There are many resources available for caregivers and their patients that provide financial, emotional, and physical support.
- Consider respite care. Look into government provided respite care programs, or if possible, there are private options. You can also enlist friends and family members to take over every once in a while, giving you much needed time away.
- Don’t stay silent. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, speak up. Let your friends and family members known – don’t just assume they’ll automatically know how you’re feeling. If you need a break, let them know.
Take care of yourself
Self-care is essential for keeping yourself healthy, and it’s necessary if you want to provide excellent care for your loved one.
- Prioritize your relationships. Don’t neglect your friends and loved ones, as they’re your support They will sustain you, keeping you happy and hopeful.
- Get out of the house. If possible, get out of the house as much as possible. Go to coffee with a friend, or take a trip to the movies. Depending on the illness, you may be able to take your patient out with you for walks. Staying cooped up in a house all day is a recipe for disaster.
- Staying active can go a long way in making you feel better throughout the day. It combats sluggishness and keeps you working at peak performance. If you can only squeeze on one or two small workouts a weak, that’s better than nothing.
- Eat well. Don’t let your healthy diet get lost in the business of the job. Practice a good diet, including lots of fruits and vegetables and fewer trans-fats and sugars. An easy way to do this is to make a habit of creating healthy meals for you and your loved one and eating them together. This fosters a good relationship while keeping you healthy.
Know you’re appreciated.
While the job may feel hopeless at times, know that you’re appreciated, even if your loved one can’t tell you themselves.
- Talk to supportive friends. Talking to supportive friends and family members can be all you need to know you’re appreciated. They can listen to you and acknowledge the work you’re putting in.
- Picture how your loved one would respond if they could. If your patient is disabled by pain and illness, rendering them unable to show appreciation, just imagine how they would respond if they could.
Caregiver fatigue is, unfortunately, all too common among family caregivers. Knowing the signs of burnout, tapping into available resources, and practicing good self-care habits can help you stay healthy – both physically and emotionally.