An estimated 53 million American adults were unpaid caregivers in 2020. That’s according to the Caregiving in the U.S. study released by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. Of those 53 million caregivers, an estimated 41.8 million were caring for someone age 50 or older.
This number is only expected to rise as the aging baby boomer population increasingly requires more care. While caregiving for a loved one can be a rewarding experience, it also can lead to high levels of stress. If unchecked, a caregiver may eventually become burnt out. This can lead to health problems for the caregiver. It also creates a worse situation for the person receiving care.
For those reading this article that are currently experiencing burnout, know that you are not alone. And if you know someone who may be burnt out, please share this article with them
Education is often the first step toward combating caregiver burnout.
What Is Caregiver Burnout?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion.” Someone experiencing burnout may not realize what is happening until it is too late. As the burnout progresses the caregiver may suffer from fatigue, anxiety and depression. They may undergo a change in attitude, from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned.
Understanding the signs of caregiver burnout can help you to identify when it’s time for you or a loved one to seek help. Thankfully, there are many common indicators that something is amiss.
Common Signs of Caregiver Burnout
The symptoms of caregiver burnout are similar to the symptoms of stress and depression. They may be physical, emotional or both. Some commonly observed symptoms include:
- Withdrawal from friends, family and other loved ones.
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed.
- Changes in sleep patterns.
- Changes in appetite, weight or both.
- Feeling sad, irritable, hopeless and helpless.
- Emotional and physical exhaustion.
Eventually caregiver burnout can lead to frequent sickness. Research from the American Psychological Association found that among people aged 55 to 75, those who are caregivers show a 15 percent lower level of immune response, making them more vulnerable to infections.
Many caregivers are so concerned with the health of their loved ones that they fail to acknowledge how they are feeling at any given moment. It is important for caregivers to set aside some time to stop and reflect on their own physical and mental health to avoid burnout.
Caregiver Burnout Quiz
One way to determine if you are experiencing caregiver burnout is to ask yourself some quick “yes or no” questions. Inspired by the Institute on Aging, we have compiled a short list of questions to help get you started.
- Are there things you no longer take part in that you used to enjoy in your free time?
- Are you finding yourself more sad, exhaustive, angry or reactive than you used to be?
- Are you experiencing frequent illness or any unexpected physical symptoms?
- Have you noticed a change in your level of communication with friends or family?
- In the past week was there a moment you felt completely overwhelmed?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is possible you are experiencing caregiver burnout. Please note that this quiz is not a substitute for a licensed professional’s diagnosis of caregiver burnout. Here’s a more in-depth questionnaire from the American Medical Association.
Your Options to Lessen Caregiver Burnout
Those suffering from caregiver burnout may feel that things are hopeless. However, there are many different resources available for caregivers to help them alleviate stress and recover.
Consider the following resources to prevent or lessen caregiver burnout:
- Call on family, friends and neighbors for assistance.
- Attend a local support group for caregivers.
- Look into services & programming offered at adult day centers.
- Consider hired support from a home health aide.
- Seek out residential respite care services.
In case you are unfamiliar with respite care, here’s a quick run-down. Respite care is a temporary or recurring form of caregiving assistance that is available to give unpaid caregivers a break. Residential respite care is caregiving assistance provided by a senior living community.
If you are considering respite care for an older adult and are in Palm Beach County, we encourage you to check out the services available at The Waterford, a continuing care retirement community.
The Waterford’s Respite Care Options
At The Waterford, we offer residential respite care stays in our on-site health center. ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best in the country. You can rest easy knowing that your loved one is receiving compassionate care from our team of experts. Short-term guests will also have access to all of the luxurious services and amenities available to our full-time residents.
If you are experiencing caregiver burnout or would like to learn more about respite care services at The Waterford, please contact us using the form below or call 561-627-3800.