Every person experiences stress from time-to-time in their daily lives, but senior caregivers often experience increased caregiver stress and compassion fatigue due to the physical and emotional demand of caring for another person.
What is caregiver burnout?
Caregiver burnout is a state of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion that occurs after the prolonged stress of taking care of a loved one.
Here are the top five reasons for senior caregiver burnout and some tips to help:
#1 Financial Problems
Dealing with not only our own finances, but also someone we care for, can be very taxing. Medical bills for physician’s visits, treatments, or in-home care may accumulate quickly for caregivers on a fixed income. One study found that 60% of caregivers who support seniors report have to reduce the number of hours they work, take a leave of absence or make a career change. (See more caregiving stats here). Half say they’ve gotten into work late or had to leave early1.These changes can result in negative income changes and money stress.
Helpful tip: Contact your county Social Service agency to see if your loved one qualifies for Medicaid. This can cover medical costs not covered by their current insurance.
#2 Compassion Fatigue
Compassion fatigue occurs when caregivers feel like they don’t have enough time for themselves or cannot get a break from caregiving. The struggle between finding time to care for their loved one and spending time with their children/spouse and working often leaves caregivers with very little time to themselves. 65 million Americans spend 20+ hours a week caring for an aging loved one2. For example, this challenge is seen when finding the time to drive a loved one to an appointment; this may involve taking time off work due to the inflexibility of doctor’s office hours, coordinating a reliable transportation service to pick up the patient or finding a friend/family member who is able to drive them. At Iora, we can arrange for transportation services when your loved one needs help getting to medical appointments without you.
Helpful tip: Talk to a family member about splitting time on caring for a senior so that the burden doesn’t fall on you and you alone. If you’re looking to hire a new caregiver, use these top interview questions.
#3 Caregiver Role Strain
In taking care of a chronically ill loved one, caregivers may feel mentally and physically exhausted (e.g., overwhelmed, frustrated, depressed or guilty). They may feel that they are not doing a good enough job, or simply think they are being disloyal by wishing they did not have to provide the care.
Helpful tip: Seek out a caregiver support group in your community where you can express some of these emotions to others who are experiencing a similar situation. Some practices at Iora offer caregiver support groups. Find a local practice and ask for a class calendar!
#4 Physical Toll
Many caregivers find that their loved one needs assistance, or at least availability to them, around the clock. Caregiving may require hands-on physical care such as dressing, bathing or feeding. Lack of sleep for caregivers is common, due to a loved one getting up in the middle of the night, the caregiver having a sense of worry, or having to stay up to get everything done.
Helpful tip: There are home care agencies that can provide assistance with personal care. These resources can be found through Senior Resource Centers or online. Also, it might be a good idea to consider assisted living.
Isolation for caregivers is common due to the time it demands. Whether they feel it’s unsafe to leave their loved one alone or it’s that they have no extra time, disconnection from family and friends often occurs. Alternatively, caregiving can feel lonely because others may not understand what they’re going through.
Helpful tip: Similarly to reason and tip #3, it’s often beneficial to talk to others about what you’re going through. A caregiver support group provides a forum to talk about these issues with individuals going through the same thing.
There are many solutions to dealing with caregiver burnout and stress. Perhaps there is a caregiver support group you could join where you can express your feelings? Or maybe there is a community resource that can alleviate you from some compassion fatigue? Iora Primary Care can support you and your aging loved one. Learn more by visiting our Caregiver page and filling out our contact form. You don’t have to do this alone!