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Senior Caregivers: Preventing Stress And Burnout

Many seniors require the assistance of someone to provide short- or long-term care for a wide variety of reasons.

When a senior needs reliable care, it often comes from trusted family members or close friends. While caring for a loved one is rewarding, people are rarely prepared for the time and commitment required or the personal impact that it can have.

Serving as a caregiver, especially someone’s primary caregiver, is a demanding job that can take its toll, leading to physical and emotional stress. If steps are not taken to reduce this stress, it may eventually escalate to the point of burnout.

Both caregiver stress and burnout can have a tremendous impact on one’s personal and even professional life. Preventing both stress and the risk of burnout means recognizing the risks and signs and understanding what to do.

 

Understanding The Causes Of Caregiver Stress And Burnout

While the demanding nature of caring for a senior and the frustration that can accompany the role are the most obvious stressors for caregivers, they aren’t the only sources of stress.

Other factors may include a failure to recognize the need for help or to ask for it when the need is recognized. In some cases, one may believe they are capable of handling more than they actually can or have unrealistic expectations about the impact they will have on the senior in their care.

The inability to establish boundaries between one’s responsibilities as a caregiver and home life, including one’s own children and spouse, is also problematic.

 

Recognize The Signs And Consequences Of Stress

Stress associated with the care of a senior is the first step toward burnout. In addition, long-term stress may lead to numerous health-related problems.

High blood pressure, heart problems, and depression are just a few of the issues that caregivers under stress may experience. A weakened immune system is another serious concern, as is the increased risk of developing other chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cancer.

The signs of caregiving-related stress are varied and can manifest in changes to one’s behavior, physical appearance, or emotions. Some of these signs may include:

  • Smoking
  • Increased alcohol consumption
  • Weight gain
  • Increased fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep problems
  • Irritability
  • Frequent sadness

 

Caregiver Burnout Signs

Without taking the steps to reduce stress, one may reach a point at which they are no longer able to or unwilling to effectively perform as a caregiver.

Burnout is characterized by being exhausted physically and mentally. Burned-out caregivers may experience depression or anxiety.

To determine if one has reached the level of being burned out, it’s important to recognize the signs, which may include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Getting sick more frequently
  • An increase or decrease in appetite
  • A lack of interest in previous likes
  • Neglecting oneself
  • Withdrawing from friends and loved ones
  • Suicidal feelings
  • Emotional exhaustion and inability to relax, even when not acting as a caregiver
  • Thoughts of harming the person in one’s care

 

Caregiver Stress And Burnout Prevention

One of the primary keys to wellness while acting as a caregiver is to maintain one’s personal health. This is done by eating properly, exercising regularly, and staying well-rested.

It’s helpful to find some quiet time, too. This is important for all caregivers, particularly those who live in the same home as the senior they are caring for.

Spending time outdoors, enjoying music, or even playing with a pet can help alleviate daily stress levels. Another way to prevent excess stress and burnout is to make time for friends and socializing.

Contact with friends or family is important to avoid feeling overwhelmed and disconnected from the world beyond life as a caregiver. In addition to interacting with friends, support groups and social workers can provide outlets to talk about things that are frustrating or causing stress.

Because caring for others can be time-consuming, one should recognize and heed their physical and mental limits.

It’s important to have someone who can help if necessary or a source of respite care for short-term assistance.

Finding joy in one’s day and creating and following a daily routine can also be beneficial in helping to alleviate daily stress.