caregiver holding her head as if she has a headache

Caregiver SOS: How to Avoid Burnout and Fatigue

REUT-FlagDo you know the warning signs of caregiver burnout?

Whether you know someone who’s a caregiver or if you’re a caregiver yourself, it’s important to understand and recognize when a situation is becoming untenable. More than 40 million adults in North America are caregiving at least one loved one while also balancing other obligations. Many of these individuals (you may be one yourself) start performing this task out of a sense of duty or love, and for a while, the task may be sustainable.

But things can quickly spiral out of control, according to Andrea Campisi, Marketing and Admissions Director of The Reutlinger Community, a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Danville, CA.

“Being a caregiver can be a very rewarding experience, but it is also one of the most stressful situations you can find yourself in,” she says. “This is particularly true if the person you’re caring for has a dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, which requires around-the-clock care. Most family caregivers aren’t professional caregivers – they’re often spouses, parents and employees as well. Balancing the ‘regular’ responsibilities with the caregiving responsibilities can lead to extreme emotional, mental and physical fatigue.”

This fatigue is known as caregiver burnout, and many times caregivers and their loved ones don’t realize it’s happening until they’re deep in it.

“Our bodies aren’t meant to deal with stress on a constant basis,” says Andrea. “The heightened emotion of fight-or-flight causes the hormones to get out of whack in our body, leading to a variety of mental and physical issues. This includes depression, anger, a lowered immune system, cardiovascular issues and more.”

If you or someone you know is exhibiting the signs of caregiver fatigue or burnout, immediate steps must be taken to keep the caregiver from falling into a slump, experiencing a health issue and ultimately providing poor care for their loved one.

“If you notice any of these signs, consider it an SOS,” says Andrea.

Warning Signs of Caregiver Fatigue and Burnout

There are many signs of burnout, and a caregiver may experience one, several, or all of them. If you’re noticing any of these issues, consider them big flashing red lights of caution:

  • A lack of energy
  • Sleeping issues (either too much or too little)
  • Depression, mood swings and feelings of hopelessness
  • Becoming ill with more frequency and staying sick for longer
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Withdrawing from activities and becoming socially isolated
  • Having difficulty coping with everyday tasks
  • Becoming increasingly resentful of the person you’re caring for
  • Stomach issues such as ulcers

Avoiding Burnout and Fatigue

Andrea says it’s important for friends and family of the caregiver to know what signs to look for in order to intervene if the caregiver isn’t caring for themself. “When a caregiver is in the thick of everyday life, it can be hard to take a step back and see how bad things have become,” she says. “Sometimes it takes an outside figure to recognize the issues and take steps towards making things better.”

Ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t make a person a bad caregiver. In fact, it shows great strength to know when you’re overwhelmed and need assistance. Remember that no one can do it alone. Reach out to friends and family with specific requests, such as watching your loved one for an afternoon, or picking up groceries while they’re running errands. If you know a caregiver, tell them point-blank how you’re willing to help and offer it whenever you can – for example, if you’re running to the grocery store, call your friend and say, “what can I pick up for you while I’m there?”

Remember the importance of breaks. Give yourself permission to take a break on a regular basis. Go on a walk around the block, read a book, watch a favorite TV show or head to the spa for a massage. As a caring friend or family member, offer to watch the individual with dementia so the caregiver can get out of the house and feel worry- and guilt-free.

Look into community resources. Besides friends and family, reach out to local agencies and organizations who might be able to help you have a bit of respite. Your local Area Agency on Aging is a great place to start. There are many organizations out there – transportation services, meal services, even on-call caregivers and home aides who could come in as often as you’d like. Memory care communities and senior centers may offer adult day care services, informational classes and other support networks.

Take care of your health. Eating right, getting enough sleep and regular physical activity are three of the most important ways caregivers can stay healthy and stave off caregiver strain and stress. The trick is to be creative and find ways to carve out time in your busy schedule. Grab little snippets of exercise here and there throughout your day (such as walking around the block, going up and down the stairs or doing sit-ups while watching Netflix). Set a sleep schedule and adhere to it. Create meal plans for the week and map out what’s needed in order to create healthy, nutritious meals for you and your loved one. Home meal kits like Blue Apron or grocery delivery services can be a great boon.

Stay connected. It’s easy to let caregiving become the central – and sole – focus of your life, but it’s important for caregivers to remember that they’re many other things besides just a caregiver. If you’re married, take time for date night with your spouse. Continue attending book club or happy hour with the girls, at least once in a while. And look into support groups where you can get connected to others who know exactly what you’re going through. Human beings thrive when we feel recognized, acknowledged and respected.

“The best way to avoid caregiver burnout is by finding those opportunities that fill you up, give you joy and make you happy,” says Andrea.

For more information about avoiding caregiver fatigue and burnout, or to learn more about our community, mission and values, please contact us at 925-272-0261.

Premier Senior Living, Dedicated Care

The Reutlinger Community’s mission is to provide high quality health care and social support services in a life-enhancing and stimulating environment with a commitment to Jewish values.

Offering Assisted Living, Enhanced Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation, The Reutlinger Community provides a continuum of care that allows seniors to live a life-enhancing and stimulating environment. Located in Danville, California, The Reutlinger Community’s newly renovated, 110,000 square foot community combines the comfort and familiarity of home with seasoned senior care and skilled nursing specialists to suit any senior’s needs, allowing them to live the life they choose with freedom and security.

Because we specialize in a continuum of care, our residents never need to worry about leaving the community they call home or wonder what will happen when they need some more care. Residents and families alike can have peace of mind knowing that there are full-time licensed nurses available, along with activity coordinators, social workers, caregivers, a concierge and Rabbi who focus solely on helping each resident thrive. Even better, our services and amenities are equal to those of a state-of-the-art resort. This is the lifestyle and care that your loved one deserves.

At The Reutlinger Community, seniors have numerous opportunities to engage in award-winning programs that are designed to engage the mind, renew the spirit and provide opportunities to meet new people and learn something new. Whether residents are enjoying our art program and museum, listening to a lecture or educational program or attending spiritual programming and our wide range of activities, there’s something for each resident to love. Participate as much or as little as you like, the choice is all yours.

For more information or to schedule a personal tour, contact us today.