Today, more than 65 million individuals, making up for 29% of the US population have a role of a caregiver. Usually, this involves taking care of a relative who is ill, disabled or incapable of looking after him/herself. The most common caregiver is, typically, a woman in her 49 year of life caring for her 69-year-old mother, even though the two do not live together. However, there are other cases of caregivers, varying in age, social status, education and sex.
Being a caregiver is a noble and humane profession. However, it is one of the most stressful jobs on the planet and many caregivers are not capable of doing what they do for a long period of time. The stress involved with caregiving often evolves and overwhelms a person, leading to an onset of a new condition called the caregiver burnout.
Warning Signs of Caregiver Stress
The onset of the caregiver burnout can be noticed by the person undergoing it. Basically, the caregiver gets very angry at the old person he/she is taking care of. Also, he/she might show resentment and anger towards his/her family, doctors or some other social workers.
Also, on the emotional part, the caregiver may feel that he/she is getting more and more overwhelmed by anxiety and constant worry. In fact, these feelings may easily prevent the caregiver from enjoying life or having any personal activities apart from exhaustion and desperation.
Insomnia may also be present in this stage, along with other sleeping disorders. Moreover, if the caregiver is suffering from a health condition, it might get worse during a caregiver burnout. The person may be irritated easily and find it hard to concentrate.
Once a person suffers from a caregiver burnout, he/she experiences the above mentioned symptoms all the time. Additionally, he/she may be prone to verbal self-punishment or criticism, hating the caregiving job and all the obligations that go hand-in-hand with it.
The caregiver burnout may take its toll on the relationship of the person, leading to numerous fights and arguments. Also, this phenomenon may trigger drug abuse or other form of addictive behavior.
As the burnout progresses, the person affected may have problems in knowing his/her roles, lose control and have some unrealistic and abnormal desires.
How To Avoid Caregiver Burnout
In order not to let the emotions overwhelm you during your daily caregiving, keep the evenings or the afternoons for yourself. Reserve this time for walking, going out with friends or some other forms of socializing.
Make sure you eat healthy, since a proper diet will keep you safe from caregiver burnout. If you feel that you need to take a break, talk to your friends on the phone before you can actually leave the house.
You should not neglect sleep since resting properly will increase your functionality and tolerance. Also, a good form of stress relief lies in regular exercising and staying in a good physical shape.
You can always find support in caregiver groups, adult day care centers or some people close to you. Additionally, do not forget to reward yourself once in a while, by pampering yourself, buying something or going on a weekend vacation.
Alternatively, when you cannot take your job anymore, due to the stress, hire a professional caregiver for a couple of days and have the necessary time for yourself.
Being well organized and knowing how to help the person you are being a caregiver to can certainly help relieve the tension and avoid any problems. Moreover, involving your family and friends, asking them for help when you cannot manage everything is recommended. Just make sure you know what kind of help you need, why you need it and who you need it from.
Keep your group of family and friends close and know who you can count on for what. For example, know which friends are good for comforting you and supporting you. Also, know who can help you with transportation or some other, specific tasks. This way, you will create a support network which can prove to be priceless for you.
Finally, humor and laughter can be helpful, both for you and the person you are being there for. It promotes health and helps you stay calm, accepting all problems on the job as a form of joke, staying relaxed and relieved of stress. Sometimes, humor and laughter can serve as channels for emotions, releasing the feelings caregivers usually lock inside them. Laughter is incredibly healthy, boosting your immune system and blood circulation, engaging your muscles into exercise, possibly triggering the release of endorphins in your brain.
All in all, you need to learn how to withstand the hard job of being a caregiver. The process may be hard and demanding itself. Nevertheless, when using proper methods of stress relief, you can be capable of staying healthy, sane and positive throughout your caregiver career.