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Spotting the Signs of Caregiver Burnout
Caregiver burnout is mental, emotional and physical exhaustion that may develop through the responsibilities of supporting and caring for another individual. "Caregivers often focus so intently on the needs of the individual receiving care that they may neglect their own health and wellness,” says Darren Sush, a licensed clinical psychologist and board-certified behavior analyst in Los Angeles.
As this lack of self-care persists, along with the ongoing obligations of providing care for a loved one, caregivers’ exhaustion often intensifies, impacting different aspects of their lives as well as their effectiveness and compassion as a caregiver.
Sush says that burnout may be easily misunderstood as simply feeling overly tired or even occasionally exhausted. "Unfortunately, while being tired can often be resolved by taking a break, getting a little more sleep or actively trying to relax, burnout is more often less easily relieved. Individuals who experience caregiver burnout, tend to face an all encompassing fatigue that impacts multiple areas of their lives,” he says.
Caregiver burnout can happen to anyone who is providing care for another person, whether it’s hands-on care, is only occasional, from a distance, or even at the "managerial” level, says Zina Paris, associate director of clinical services at Alzheimer’s Greater Los Angeles, a local nonprofit that helps families affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
"It happens when you feel that the experience of caregiving is overwhelming and that you do not have the support — physically, mentally, emotionally, financially — that you need in order to successfully care for the person and to take care of yourself adequately at the same time,” says Paris.
Very often, caregivers can find themselves accustomed to the routine stress, worry and discomfort that come with providing care for a loved one. And as a result, Sush says you may not acknowledge warning signs of your own needs for gaining support.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
Those signs include:
You no longer find pleasure in things you once found enjoyable, or you have no motivation to participate in previously enjoyed activities
Friends and family have expressed concerns about your well-being
You’re getting negative feedback at work
You’re having problems with your spouse
You experience intense and recurrent feelings of anger, sadness, worry or fear
You have difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, notice drastic weight changes (significant gain or loss), or unexplained health problems
You find yourself using a substance to cope with, manage or suppress uncomfortable or painful feelings.
Sush notes that there are also signals caregivers should know that indicate they’re at risk for developing caregiver burnout in the near future. These include:
Regular thoughts of anger or resentment toward the person you’re caring for
Irritation toward others who aren’t helping with your loved one’s care
Isolating yourself from people who aren’t involved in providing care to the person
Consistently arriving late to appointments or to visiting the person receiving care, or often leaving early