Every person experiences stress from time-to-time in their daily lives, but 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.
Top 5 Reasons for Caregiver Burnout and How to Cope:
#1 Financial Problems
Dealing with not only our own finances but also someone we care for, can be a cause of caregiver burnout. 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 having to reduce the number of hours they work, taking a leave of absence, or making a career change. (See more caregiving stats here). Half say they’ve gotten into work late or had to leave early. 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 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 one. For example, this happens 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 hours, coordinating reliable transportation service, 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 you are not weighed down by caregiver burnout. 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, caregiver fatigue can set in by physical or mental exhaustion (e.g., overwhelmed, frustrated, depressed, or guilty). They may feel that 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. Talking through your experiences is a great way to reduce caregiver burnout.
#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. These can feel like heavy physical burdens, potentially making your caregiver fatigue worse.
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 other caregivers. Check out some a list of support groups here. Take the time you need to address your feelings and reduce the effects of caregiver burnout.
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. Caregivers are just as important in our patients’ care as a Health Coach or physician.