According to the National Family Caregivers Association, in any given year, more than 45 million Americans are caring for an aging parent, close family member or friend. While more often than not, women tend to shoulder more of this burden, increasingly men are just as likely to face the challenge.
For those of you who have wrestled with caregiving responsibilities, you know that it can often place a tremendous strain on one’s health, personal finances, job responsibilities, and relationships. Day after day, you’re making tremendous personal sacrifices caring for loved ones, but who’s taking care of you?
Ask yourself these 10 questions to see whether you’re heading for Caregiver Burnout.
1. Are you constantly feeling tired and exhausted? Don’t have the same energy for performing routine activities that you used to?
2. Do you find that you sleep poorly at night and either have trouble falling asleep, or sleep restlessly throughout the night?
3. Are you constantly wondering if you are making right decisions for your loved one? Do you question your decisions because of the stress you may be under in dealing with other family member’s conflicting ideas of how to care for your loved one?
4. Do you find yourself becoming increasingly impatient and irritable with others for no good reason?
5. Do you find yourself being resentful toward your loved one or at other family members for the burden that’s being placed on you?
6. Do you feel increasingly joyless, depressed, or apathetic and find that you derive less and less pleasure in either taking care of your loved one, or in other activities that used to give you pleasure?
7. Have you found yourself wanting to withdraw socially?
8. Has your appetite changed noticeably – either you are eating considerably more due to stress, or you have lost interest in food?
9. Have you developed an increased dependence on substances such as cigarettes, alcohol or drugs? Or do you find yourself escaping into other “unhealthy” activities such as overshopping, excessive use of the internet and other escapist activities?
10. Do you feel a sense of guilt that you aren’t doing quite enough for your loved one?
Of course, even non-caregivers can experience some of these symptoms now and then in response to stress at some points in their lives. But if you answered “yes” to more than 3 of these questions, and experience these symptoms on a pretty consistent basis, then you could be heading down the path to Caregiver Burn-out.
Here’s one of my favorite resources that I want to share. The Family Caregiver Alliance, National Center on Caregiving produces a wealth of resources – manuals, provider lists, research studies, you name it – for care givers. I particularly like their “Long Distance Caregiver Handbook”, which stresses that caregivers who may be facing burn-out reach out and get help, ask for professional support, and call a family meeting to delegate some of the caregiving repsonsibilities.
It’s thorough and concise and it offers some wonderful tips, links and strategies for caregivers. I love the section that advises caregivers to hold a family meeting! That’s great advice. For many people, though, the idea of sitting down with other family members and sorting through complex emotions and devising an appropriate caregiving strategy can be daunting. However, with the assistance of a third party neutral, such as an eldercare mediator, to facilitate the discussion that conversation can become much more manageable. Food for thought.