When a loved one receives care at home, family caregivers become an extension of the health care team and are considered essential partners in the delivery of care. This new role often comes with responsibilities that family members may find overwhelming. As more and more evidence illuminates the burden of family caregiving, the early detection and treatment of caregiver burnout becomes crucial.
It may surprise you that data have shown that family caregiver distress can often be equal to or greater than the distress of the patient.1 While there is no way of avoiding stress altogether, recognizing the early signs of caregiver burnout can prevent it from becoming unmanageable. These early signs can be both emotional and physical, and may include1:
- Lack of energy and/or overwhelming fatigue
- Sleep problems (too much or too little)
- Changes in eating habits; weight loss or gain
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
If you (or someone you know) is a family caregiver experiencing any of these concerns, there are steps you can take to manage.
Priority number 1: seek support. There are a variety of groups with helpful tools and resources readily available. Some well-known support networks include:
Sometimes, the act of seeking help and speaking honestly about family caregiver stress can alleviate burnout. A formalized approach may include exercise, mediation, deep breathing, and healthy eating, all of which decrease stress-induced physical illness. If feasible, consider employing the services of a professional home health care company to relieve family caregiver burden. A trusted home health aid, for example, can take over caregiver duties during scheduled intervals to provide a well-deserved respite for the family.
Caregiving is a beautiful expression of love, but the fact of the matter is we can never prioritize the care of a loved one over the physical and mental health of the caregiver.
At Alliance Homecare, we are invested in helping the families of our clients cope with the challenges of providing family care. Understanding the implications of family caregiver stress helps start the conversation early. Contact us at (877) 687-7380 to speak with our expert Care Managers today and keep an eye out for additional caregiver tips provided by our trusted partner, Dr. Sandy Krohn, Executive Director of City Psychology.
References: 1. A meta-analytic investigation of the relationship between the psychological distress of cancer patients and their careers. Hodges LJ, Humphris GM, Macfarlane G Soc Sci Med. 2005 Jan; 60(1):1-12.