If you are a caregiver for an elderly loved one, of course you want what’s best for their well-being – but what about your own? As of 2019, the CDC reported that over half of family caregivers experienced a decline in their own health, severe enough that it compromised their ability to provide care. What’s even more concerning is the fact that this number doesn’t account for those who may be in denial about how their own health impacts their role as a caregiver.
A caregiver’s own health may not be their highest priority, but neglecting it entirely will lead to burnout – and that, in turn, compromises the well-being of the older loved one. But what does burnout look like?
Physical signs of burnout can include frequent headaches, stomachaches, and other ailments. A caregiver might be getting ill more often, as extreme stress has lowered their immune system’s ability to fight off infection. They may be experiencing extreme fatigue, to the point where they’re nodding off mid-activity, or consuming more caffeine to help them stay awake. Often, burnout can also manifest as a change in appetite – maybe the caregiver isn’t eating anything throughout the day, or is overeating at every meal.
Emotional signs of burnout should be recognized as well. A caregiver might be feeling more anxious or depressed, or unusually irritable and impatient. They may “snap” more easily when having difficulty with everyday things. As the older loved one’s condition worsens and care responsibilities increase, they may feel like caregiving has taken over their life. You may notice they have no time for their usual hobbies because 100% of their energy is going towards taking care of mom or dad. They may feel they owe it to their parent to take care of them 24/7, and feel guilty or worry about criticism if they ask for any kind of help.
What should you do if you, or someone you know, is approaching caregiver burnout? Prioritizing self-care and enlisting the help of other family members can be useful. But what families really benefit from is expert guidance with caregiving options that avoid burnout, including a back-up plan, as part of the bigger long term care picture. Working with a Life Care Planning law firm can help cover all the bases: we will help you make sure mom or dad is cared for, easing the burden on you and giving you peace of mind.