Caregivers are faced with one major challenge – and that is emotional fatigue from attending to people they love and want to care for. Burnout is detrimental to caregiving as when interest fades the care receiver may not get the right care.
What is a caregiver?
Former first lady Rosalynn Carter was quoted;
“there are four kinds of people; those who have been caregivers, those that are caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those that will need caregivers”.
Caregivers are normally volunteers who offer to help a loved one without necessarily getting paid in exchange. Essentially, caregiving is offered to people who need it, that is the elderly, disabled, the chronically ill, mothers in maternity, survivors of accidents, and seldom people with mental incapacitations.
Some of the services offered by caregivers include preparation of meals, running errands, assistance with bathing, assistance with using the toilet, manual assistance in walking and making body movements, handling medical equipment and performing paramedical tasks, and engaging the person in chats, fun games and activities. In as much as infant children are given the same attention, it is often not counted as caregiving unless the child grows to an independent age and still requires personalized care out of the aforementioned reasons.
Caregivers are often relatives and close friends who take care of their loved ones. However, some would be employees who offer care in exchange for a wage/salary. The former are often unpaid and may go without much appreciation, killing their morale and partly accounting to burnout.
What causes caregiver burnout?
Caregiver burnout is an emotional experience that affects the whole physical and mental well-being, and that is the reason it affects loved ones more than those that get paid to offer care. Either way everyone is in the risk if they are exposed to these factors;
The primary cause of caregiver burnout is overcommitment. Due to many other reasons the caregiver may drain their physical and emotional energy out of dedicating too much time and energy to offer care. Burnout comes as a result of this exhaustion along with emotional interferences caused mainly by overcommitment. Caregivers are workers too, and require frequent rests in order to offer quality care to their loved ones.
- Huge workload and insufficient support
Too much work and less hands to support lead to overcommitment aforementioned. Some caregivers are tasked with every part of the care receiver’s life, and since they have great concern for the person they end up bearing all the responsibilities without negotiating with the care receiver and without requesting for support from other relatives and friends. If the workload is too much, there is always the option of hiring an additional hand.
- Conflicting Obligations
Caregivers may have other commitments in their lives apart from the current role of caregiving. These are family members belonging to other families, they bear responsibilities to provide for themselves and their families, as well as take care of the person in need. Dilemmas draw so much interest from either of the two conflicting commitments. Caregivers will reduce their interests in taking care of their loved one, as they find a balance between the two conflicting commitments.
- Lack of control over the welfare of the care receiver
Not everything is manageable, affordable, and achievable in human health. However, this is not in the minds of many caregivers. They always believe everything is in control and get frustrated when it becomes imminent that they are short-handed. Finances may lack, the deteriorating health of the care receiver may exacerbate, and the disability may be permanent to the point of no repair. Caregivers find it difficult to stomach this, and it’s the hopelessness that burns them out.
Signs of caregiver burnout
- Loss of interest in offering care, as well as in doing other things that were formerly fun for the caregiver.
- Drained energy – to offer care as well as perform other functions. The caregiver is grossly exhausted.
- Anger and irritability – pointless things irritate the caregiver. He/she may also get irritated by the care receiver, something that would rarely happen before.
- Feelings of desolateness, emptiness, hopelessness; depression. It all starts from lacking interest, and the feeling graduates to desolateness and within no time the caregiver is suffering from depression. At this point there is no return, and the remedy is giving up care for someone else.
- Imposter syndrome where the caregiver doubts their abilities, skills, and potential, and sees no impacts of their efforts.
Solutions to caregiver burnout
Reach out – Burnout is emotional more than physical, and the first responder is always someone who can assist with emotional stress. This could be a physiotherapist, counsellor, or any qualified specialist. However, in the meantime the caregiver can share with just someone; family, friends, or even the care receiver.
Establish open communication – inform the care receiver of any thoughts you reserve, make sure they understand the prevailing circumstances and seek if they have any preferences themselves. Sometimes caregivers give so much more than the receivers want. Care receivers will want to be independent, and a way can surely be worked out to alleviate demands.
Accept realities – some conditions are irreversible, a sickness may be long-term, and old age is inevitable. Caregivers should understand their capabilities, that caregiving has red lines and they have to take breaks.
Rest and intermittent shifts – in the case where there are more family members, friends, or other potential caregivers, arrangements should be made such that an individual is not overburdened with attending to the care receiver. It is important that everyone gets to rest, and also have time for other commitments in their lives.
Alternative respite care – Respite care is short-term relief for caregivers through simple services like food delivery and a half-day stay at a nursing home. Family members and friends have always dreaded the idea of “abandoning” their loved ones in nursing homes, thus strain so much offering care at home. Respite care preempts the need for 24/7 home-based care and permanent stay at the nursing home.
Love makes caregivers blind to the extent that the love starts to fade and anger creeps in. Caregivers ought to separate their relationship to the receiver with their responsibilities as a caregiver. Employing someone else to offer care is not very welcomed, as family members feel they are abandoning their loved ones. A holistic approach is the best approach – divide labor, include outsiders, and invoke respite care.