Signs You May be Suffering from Caregiver Burnout
Being a caregiver to those who have dementia and Alzheimer's disease is an extremely emotional task, specifically for a loved one, of which a majority of caregivers are, in addition to being female, according to the Alzheimer's Association. The Association has a handy list of 10 symptoms of caregiver burnout, including denial, anger, social withdrawal, anxiety, among others. But what exactly do these symptoms look like in real life.
Here, I'll attempt to give a few real-life examples of how signs of caregiver burnout may be apparent, leaning on peer-reviewed research.
One study I read indicated that those caregivers who use a submissive approach to coping with their feelings are more likely to experience burnout. Some of the thoughts that come across or things we say to people when we are surrendering include, "Whatever will be, will be," or "This is my fate." The study found that this may be linked to the caregiver’s perception of their personal accomplishment, another factor in caregiver burnout.1
This tracks with my own experience. I personally found power in finding the Walk to End Alzheimer's as a way to fight the disease claiming my grandfather. Many of the volunteers who I work with tell a similar story.
Physical feelings of unwellness, such as fatigue, exhaustion, insomnia, etc. are also manifestations of caregiver burnout.2
In experiencing these things caregivers have often neglected their own personal wellbeing, allowing it to take a back burner. One might assess that things they used to enjoy, going for a walk, gabbing over a glass of wine with a friend, making an elaborate meal, have fallen by the wayside as you deal with the important work of ensuring your loved one's care and comfort.2
It's important to have a few sacred cows and to enlist the help of others to achieve it. Be militant with your loved one about an afternoon walk that you will take together; enlist the help of a family member so that every Tuesday from 6 to 8 you may go to your girlfriend's house for that connection.
Sense of unfairness
As compared with non-dementia caregivers, dementia caregivers were more likely to perceive that other family members were not doing their fair share to care for the loved one. Caregivers may find themselves picking fights with their family members, feelings of constant disappointment, and weariness at the burden you feel you have been placed on you.
This is a tough one. My grandfather had seven children, but this does not mean that he had seven caregivers. There are just certain factors that are outside of one's control.
In my experience, it's important to recognize caregiving, and the level of caregiving one is willing to take on in their life, as a choice (even when it feels like it's not). What's more, a caregiving network or plan doesn't have to involve blood relations. Perhaps your caregiving plans involve an adult daycare, senior center, Alzheimer's Association support group, neighbor, or friend, all of which may offer some support, whether it's time to yourself, a sympathetic ear, or another pair of eyes.
Caregiver burnout takes many forms
These are only a few of the ways burnout can manifest in a caregiver's life, but it is far from a comprehensive list.
Some of the things I noticed in my grandmother as a full-time caregiver for my grandfather were jealousy, at times, she'd resent the time people would come over to spend with Poppop, demanding the attention of her own in equal proportions, and resentment, as she struggled to switch from her role as one who is cared for to caregiver. And she remains to this day the strongest woman who I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
For all my caregiver readers, what are some ways you've noticed burnout manifesting in your life?
Does humor help you cope?