Caregivers make up the broad base of long-term care in the United States. In fact, they are viewed as a critical piece of the ‘continuum of care’ that patients with chronic illness or injury find themselves on. For many caregivers, this important role of caring for their loved one is not their sole responsibility. More often, it’s added on to a long list of other demands, which can include work, family obligations and personal health issues.
At times, you will have long periods where things go smoothly, and routine provides you with a sense of respite. Other times, you will be engaged in intense periods of challenging caregiving. No matter your unique caregiving situation, ‘burnout’ is a real possibility — one you can avoid or address when you know the signs.
Dr. M. Ross Seligson notes some of the common signs of caregiver burnout, which can often mimic those of depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder. These can include:
a sense of ongoing and constant fatigue
decreasing interest in work
decrease in work production
withdrawal from social contacts
increase in use of stimulants and alcohol
If you’re noticing any of these symptoms, it’s a good time to start making changes and seek support from your primary care physician. Additionally, caregiver resources are available from a number of Caregiver Coalition partner organizations. You can connect with many of them at our ‘Caring for the Caregiver’ conferences.
Identifying burnout is the first step to correcting it and looking out for your own long-term well-being.
Remember: taking care of YOU is the most critical part of ensuring you can continue to care for your loved one.