There are obvious benefits to spending time with your elderly loved one that can make being a caregiver well worth the effort. At the same time, there are demands that can lead to stress and complete burnout over time. While the terms “stress” and “burnout” are often used interchangeably, they refer to different levels of emotional and physical strain resulting from the constant demands associated with caregiving.
Recognizing Caregiver Stress
From occasional frustration to feeling overwhelmed, there are many forms of caregiver stress. Whether you are an hourly or live-in caregiver, without necessary help and support unchecked stress can result in increased anxiety that can affect your health along with your ability to properly care for your loved one. Signs of caregiver stress may include:
• Trouble concentrating on daily caregiving tasks
• Increased fatigue or a sudden inability to sleep well
• Overreacting to minor issues (e.g., your loved one refusing to eat a meal you prepared)
When Stress Leads to Burnout
Assuming all of the responsibilities of caregiving without a break increases the odds that you’re going to burn out eventually. Increased stress levels can result in a weakened immune system and increasing intolerance for frustrating behaviors your loved one isn’t likely to be doing on purpose. By the time you get to this stage, it usually becomes obvious to others around you that something is wrong. Possible signs of caregiver burnout may include:
• Constant exhaustion and fatigue
• Neglecting (or no longer caring about) your own needs
• No longer getting any satisfaction out of your role as caregiver (seeing it as a “chore” and nothing more)
As hard as it may be to accept, you’re not going to be an effective in-home caregiver once you’ve reached the point of complete burnout. You can avoid reaching this point, however, by knowing how to recognize signs of stress and doing something about it before you reach a boiling point that affects both you and your loved one.
If you are the primary caregiver for a senior loved one and could use additional help meeting his or her care needs, reach out to the experienced staff at Home Care Assistance. As a leading provider of New Hampshire home care, we ensure seniors have the support they need to maintain a happy, healthy, high-quality life. We offer comprehensive live-in care, as well as flexible hourly care for family caregivers who just need a short respite from their responsibilities. To learn more, give a friendly Care Manager a call at (603) 471-3004.