Be Passionate About Caregiving to Prevent Burnout & Fatigue
As the adage says, “Faint her never won fair lady,” this is applicable in almost all spheres of life. Caregiving is not an easy task because it has its full load of challenges. That is why it requires a person who does not do it for money, but one who does it with passion. If you have passion for caregiving, money will not be an issue for you because you will not look at what you gain from your job. In fact, without a passion, even if it is your profession, you will still do it halfheartedly.
There are senior citizens who have very serious complications because they are bedridden. They may even have a bowel movement while being clothed and in bed for the very same reason. If you don’t have compassion, it goes without saying that you cannot handle and withstand that. Only a passionate caregiver can handle such serious cases because they feel obliged to do that. They are also empathetic because it seems that that is what they were created for. The kindness, patience, endurance, understanding, mercy, care, love, and gentleness that caregiving requires is not for the fainthearted.
14 Signs That Caregiver Burnout & Fatigue Are Catching Up with You:
Without knowing the signs of caregiver burnout or fatigue, you cannot easily know that you are suffering from it. Therefore, you should know them so that when you find yourself experience the following signs, you will know that you are already burnt out. The Caregivers who care for the elderly face very many challenges. The kind of patience, love, and endurance that are required in caregiving are quite high and demanding.
1. Getting easily irritated, and angry over petty issues
Unlike the appropriate and commendable character and virtues of caregiving, which include being jovial and happy, you may find yourself drifting away and being the exact opposite. With time, you change your approach and attitude towards the elderly adult and start picking on them over petty issues. Your level of understanding goes low and becomes compromised. Consequently, whenever a small issue arises, you become wild and unleash terror to other people and the elder. Sometimes, you also become angry over nothing and your mood could be very unfriendly.
Instead of the senior citizen feeling safe in your hands and enjoying your company and care, they feel threatened simply not because you have done anything to them, but because of your wild attitude and anger. When you realize that you have any of these negative emotions, you should analyze and examine yourself to know the cause. You cannot solve a problem if you don’t know its cause, therefore, after establishing the cause of your irritable and angry attitude, you will know how to get rid of it even if it requires taking some days off your caregiving responsibilities. If it is other people who have provoked you, you should settle the disputes with them, and if it is your salary that has been delayed, you should openly demand for it.
2. You lose your gentleness and start becoming irresponsible
Gentleness is one of the qualities of a caregiver. When you find yourself becoming rough and starting to postpone or skip some duties and responsibilities towards the senior, you should know that things have gone south. In addition, you will also find that the commitment you had previously towards the elderly adult is diminishing. Maybe you are always by their side giving them company and telling stories, then you start spending much time away doing other things. You also handle the elder in a very rough way both physically and verbally. Instead of the senior citizen feeling cared for, they will start being abused by the very person who is supposed to take care of them. Due to your irresponsibility, the elder will start suffering because you fail to attend to them well. When this happens, you are not offering the right care for the senior citizen. When you observe these signs, you should try to establish what is not right and fix it accordingly.
3. You yell at your elderly loved one and then you regret it later
Emotions flare up at times because of many reasons. It could be because of financial constraints, family issues, falling out with people, or just out of the blue. You feel bad and you do not even want to talk to anybody. Consequently, when you are attending to the elderly adult, you will mishandle them because of what you are going through. You yell at and traumatize them because they feel the kind of brutality and enmity you have in your heart. In fact, that can aggravate their condition because you start adding to their sorrows. Moreover, you can yell at them even when they are absolutely innocent. That is called elder abuse and it is totally out of order because those are elders who should be accorded maximum respect, care, and handled gently. When you find yourself going overboard and breaching the ethics of caregiving, you should know that you are burnt out. To top it all, when you realize that you are not in the right mood, you can take sometimes off caregiving to go and cool down until your right mood resumes. Perhaps this is the time to consider looking into a respite care facility near you that will provide proper care for the elderly adult in your care while you replenish your energy.
4. You experience laziness and skip some of your caregiver responsibilities
Laziness is also an indicator of burnout. You start becoming lazy and that results in irresponsibility towards your elderly loved one, causing elderly neglect. Therefore, you start neglecting them and causing the elder to suffer. Maybe they do not take their medication on time, they remain dirty, the house and compound are not cleaned regularly and so on. When you see the care you had been giving the elder becoming tainted, it goes without saying that laziness is setting in. You do not accord the kind of treatment the senior citizen deserves. Skipping duties and responsibilities is destructive because you are caring for a delicate person. If you are tired or occupied elsewhere, you should get someone else to help you. You should also remain disciplined to ensure that you will never fail to carry out all your duties and responsibilities.
5. Your discomfort and disturbance start catching up with you
You could also be feeling disturbed and uncomfortable without any sound reason. Maybe you feel so fed up with caregiving and you no longer want anything else to do with it. Furthermore, you start feeling sated with taking care of the elderly. Everything that you used to enjoy starts becoming boring, discouraging, and distasteful. It could be because of the condition of the elder whom you are taking care of, such as a serious memory condition that requires proper memory care, or because of some other reasons. If the elder is disturbing you so much, you will not be at peace. If their condition has deteriorated, you will be affected because of the emotional connection you have with them. The discomfort and disturbance can be caused by either negative or positive causes. After establishing what is bringing you that uneasiness, you will be able to solve it accordingly. Such feelings distract the caregiver from staying dedicated to their cause.
6. You become stressed, depressed, anxious, and tired or fatigued
Sometimes, you could be going through emotional breakdown, which is characterized by feeling depressed, anxious, stressed and tired. Most elderly adults have health issues, and they are also weak. If you are full of love and compassion, you will never want to depart from them because of the emotional bond that is created between you and them over time. You will come to love them dearly if they are also friendly to you, whether you are their family member, or just someone who is providing care. Consequently, when you see their conditions deteriorating, that will greatly affect you because you will start wondering whether they will pass on soon and leave you behind. In fact, due to the intense love you could be having for that elderly senior citizen, you never want to imagine such a thing could happen. Therefore, when they continue getting weaker and weaker due to age or disease, stress and depression will come your way. When realize that you are experiencing this, you should go for counseling.
7. You experience anger and lack of compassion
Lack of compassion is brought about by having the emotional bond between you and the senior shaken, weakened, or broken. Maybe the relatives of the elderly adult or the senior citizens him/her self are bringing about provocative issues that do not sit well with you. They could have accused you falsely of something you didn’t do and you feel totally broken. Due to that, you will lose compassion and tend to become angry. Disputes should be solved amicably and cleared, because without love, compassion, and emotional attachment between you and the elder, you will abuse them instead of being their caregiver. In fact, that will prevent you from having comfort and thrill for the elderly. Nevertheless, if it has not been caused by the senior citizens or their relatives, you should know what is bringing about the above negative feelings and handle them accordingly.
8. You mistreat and neglect your elderly loved one
There are diverse reasons why you can start behaving and acting like the enemy of the senior citizen. Instead of making their lives better and enjoyable, you start bringing sorrow and pain to them. The reason why elders are taken care of by other people is because of the challenges that come with their advanced age. They weaken and there are things that they cannot handle daily living activities on their own. The right care for seniors should be offered to them. However, when you start neglecting and mistreating them, it goes without saying that you have sunk deepest, and became the enemy of the elderly adult. In fact, you start doing the contrary of what is expected of you. You could be hurting and doing bad things to the elder, which can even cause their relatives to take action against you when they realize it, whether it is legal action or something else. Therefore, when you find yourself neglecting and mistreating the elder, know that you are trending on red lines, which can impact you severely. When you reach this point, you would rather quit than shorten the lifespan of the elder.
9. You feel overwhelmed by your caregiver responsibility
If you have been taking care of the senior citizen on your own and then you reach a certain point where you feel that it has become too much, it should be the right time to reexamine yourself. That is a sign of burnout and it should be rectified before things get out of hand. It could be that, the caregiver duties and responsibilities have not been increased, but you feel as if they are a heavy burden for you. With time, you will also start feeling unable and totally exhausted. Avoiding discouragement and exhaustion can greatly alleviate these feelings. You just have to be motivated to continue working and taking care of the elderly. In fact, you can even feel as if helping the elder with very light duties is an uphill battle which is too hard for you. To overcome it, you have to observe the ethics of caregiving and ensure that you will not give a place to feelings that let you down and cause you to perform poorly. Resting and going for holidays does wonders in coping with these bad feelings.
10. You overreact over small issues
When you find yourself being upset by small and insignificant issues that cause you to overreact, that is a bad sign. It will make you mess everything else up because of having a bad attitude. What is bringing about this feeling should be stemmed to ensure that you are carrying out your duties responsibly without messing up anywhere. You should also be careful to ensure that you do not talk without evaluating the impact of your words. It is also quite good to act responsibly to avoid bringing about friction between you and the senior citizen and other people. When there is anything between you and anybody else, you will often underperform. If you are being driven by emotions, you should try to exercise self-control to keep everything in check.
11. You feel frustrated
Frustrations are common in life and there is nobody who does not experience them, regardless of their job, profession, social and economic status, etc. You may often feel frustrated at times because of things that you do not know or because of problems that people bring about in your life. For instance, you could be having some upheavals with the senior or their other relatives, and when you try to solve them, they totally object and refuse to cooperate. Sometimes, it could be because of not getting what you need. Whatever the case could be, you should not let the frustrations to remain obstructing you and preventing you from offering the required service. Caregivers who care for the elderly selflessly do all they can, but they may often be belittled.
12. You lose your patience and endurance in caregiving
As a caregiver, you should be a very enduring person because of the special care, needs, and treatment that the elders deserve. They may be old and their strength may be gone. Therefore, they may not reason, behave, and act like other people. Slowness and weakness may be some of their defining trademarks. They do not live up to your expectations. If you endure with their situation very well and then suddenly you find that you are losing your endurance, patience etc. and consequently you are unable to take care of them, that goes without saying that you are burnt-out. No wonder you lose your virtues very fast. You cannot wait on them if you are unable to bear with their situation. You can even start feeling weak, discouraged and wanting to give up.
13. You are physically exhausted and experience bodily pains
A caregiver should be vibrant, jovial, and effervescent to be effective and do their job properly. However, when you start feeling some symptoms in your body like pains and exhaustion, they indicate burnout. Just like any other job, you should have enough time to rest and recover. If there are people who may try to bring you down by throwing breaking words at you, you should not give them a chance. Avoiding discouragement and exhaustion are some of the secrets of being successful in caregiving.
14. You experience lack of concentration and become resentful
You may find yourself being resentful and lacking concentration when you are attending to the elder. It could be because your mind is bombarded with thoughts due to being stressed and depressed. Without that, you will offer substandard care to the elderly adult. In fact, that is also dangerous because if the elder is under medication, you could overdose them by accident and cause serious health complications. For instance, the prescription could be indicating 2 x 3, instead of giving the elder 2 tablets three times, you can find yourself giving them 6 tablets at once which can even be fatal. Moreover, the resentment in your heart can also make you isolate yourself from people because of feeling disenchanted. When you start experiencing these feelings, you should find an instant solution to avoid dangerous results.
What to Do If You Experience Caregiver Burnout or Fatigue?
These are some of the negative indicators of fatigue or burnout in caregivers. Whether you are a son or daughter caring for your elderly father or mother, a grandchild caring for a grandmother or grandfather, a niece or nephew caring for an uncle or aunt, or a professional caregiver who is paid to provide care, when you start experiencing any of the above signs of burning out or any others that indicate that you are getting exhausted, you should take sometime off your caregiving duties to recover from them. If they are caused by some other people, you should iron out your differences to avoid risking the health and life of the elderly adult in your care.
We may not realize it, but when we are burning out, our care to our loved ones may suffer. We may unknowingly subject our elderly loved ones to elder abuse and neglect. If we yell at our loved ones then we may be at fault for elder abuse, but if we are not fulfilling our caregiver responsibilities then we may perform elder neglect. Sometimes, we need to realize that we may no longer have the capacity to fulfil our senior caregiver duties; and it may be best that we seek additional support. Depending on the unique needs and situation of our loved ones, it may be time we consider companion care services or in-home care to help our loved one age in place at home. If you absolutely can no longer provide adequate care for your loved one at their current place of residence, consider residential care options such as:
This is true especially if your loved one may have disabilities, or prefers to form a better social circle rather than stay at their current residence and possibly experience senior loneliness and senior isolation. Such homes will provide seniors the opportunities to live as independently as possible under the care of expert senior caregivers, while enjoying establishing relationships with other Baby Boomers in their golden age. Your loved one may initially refuse considering such options but by thoroughly understanding their concerns, you may be able to create an action plan together that would be most helpful to them and to you. You can still continue to visit them, call them daily, and provide the love and care that you feel they deserve. Your elderly loved one seeks the best for you, and you sometimes may be servicing justice to both of you by considering alternative care solutions.
If you feel you are burning out, then it may be a good time to consider some form of assisted living and seeking support from expert senior caregivers. Senior Living Help can help you find the right senior living facility near you and additional help to assist you with your caregiving duties.
About the Author:
"Caregiver Burnout - Symptoms, Prevention & Solutions" is authored by Anisha Rao, MPP, Healthcare Consultant, Certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Healthcare Professional. Anisha holds a Master of Public Policy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Health Administration and Public Policy, a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and a Minor in Management of Aging Services. Anisha has extensive experience in Healthcare Services and Aging issues, including dementia care, senior health, and nursing home care. Anisha is passionate about ensuring seniors receive the best care possible and empowering seniors to become more involved in their care planning decisions.