What It Means To Be a Caregiver

Jan 27, 2022

When a family member is in need, a noble and loving response is to carve out time to provide the care they need. In 2020, there were 53 million Americans who described themselves as a caregiver for an adult member of their family. 

While admirable, this role comes with immense responsibility that can place caregivers in a vulnerable situation. In many cases, caregivers are adjusting to a new family dynamic, grieving the declining health of their loved one and sorting out related finances while also providing care to their loved one.

This can be a recipe for profound stress and eventual burnout. It is important to know when it is time to look for outside help or to transition your family member into Assisted Living. Continue reading to learn how to evaluate your situation and where to turn for help when you need it.

What Is Caregiver Burnout?

Caregiver burnout is a state of exhaustion that is caused by unrelieved stress. This burnout can manifest physically, emotionally and mentally. Those affected often experience a drastic change in attitude or notice an absence of emotion. It is also common for burnout to cause feelings of disconnection from one’s life. 

Those who are providing care in a home setting without being compensated sometimes referred to as informal caregivers are at a higher risk of experiencing burnout. It is particularly important for them to keep tabs on their mental health and to know how to identify impending burnout.

What Are the Causes of Caregiver Burnout?

It is common for caregivers to sacrifice their own needs for the needs of a loved one. While prioritizing a family member over yourself may seem generous, making it a habit is not healthy for anyone involved. 

Here are some common reasons for caregiver burnout:

  • Lack of proper support or resources. There is certainly care that you can provide to a loved one in the home they are currently in. Sometimes, though, their needs require special accommodations that are only possible in senior living communities like Charter Senior Living. When you are working with limited resources, it can be frustrating and even dangerous. 
  • Confusion of roles. When one family member begins to depend on another for essential care, the transition can be difficult. It can be challenging to relate to one another like you used to and you can lose sight of the other aspects of your relationship.
  • An attempt to do more than you are able. Out of the goodness of your heart, you might take on more than you actually can. Limits and boundaries are difficult to set when you witness a loved one in need, but failing to do so can leave you depleted and overextended.
  • Unrealistic expectations. Especially when caring for a loved one who has dementia, you may start out with certain expectations about how much your care will improve your loved one’s condition. It can be incredibly disheartening when their health and function stay the same or even deteriorate. 
  • Disruption to your life. It is nearly impossible to accept caregiving responsibilities and not have to make sacrifices in your own life. In the process, caregivers can lose sight of their own goals, hobbies and relationships.
  • Neglect of your own needs. It is easy to lose yourself in service to someone you care about. Oftentimes, caregivers will feel misplaced guilt for caring for themselves. And even more often, they just find it difficult to make time for the things that bring them joy. 

What Are Caregiver Burnout Symptoms?

Perhaps the most important thing for a current caregiver to be aware of are the signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout. If you are feeling overwhelmed with the stresses of caregiving, this list can help you determine if you are experiencing burnout.

Symptoms of caregiver burnout include:

  • A decrease of interest in the things you used to enjoy
  • Withdrawal from loved ones
  • Experiencing frequent sickness
  • Feelings of irritability, hopelessness and exhaustion
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Trouble sleeping or a change in sleeping patterns
  • Feelings of resentfulness toward your loved one

What Can You Do if You Have Caregiver Burnout?

If you are burned out due to your caregiving role, something needs to change. 

The first step is to acknowledge your unmet needs and find time to care for yourself. Staying hydrated, eating well, exercising and getting rest all can improve your mental health, but it is likely you’ll need more. Maybe you need to reduce your duties, step away from caregiving responsibilities for a while, or establish new boundaries. In some cases, professional help from a therapist or counselor might be necessary. 

All of this is easier said than done, of course, and you will likely need some outside assistance to make time for yourself. Some ways that you can access help are to:

Charter Senior Living: Peace of Mind for Older Adults and Their Families

If you are experiencing caregiver burnout, one option is to look for professional care for your loved one. At Charter Senior Living, we are all about family. No matter the health care needs of your loved one, we can provide the support they need and you can again be a spouse, daughter, son or grandchild. Contact us to schedule a visit.