Are You Taking Care of You? Caregiver Burnout Is Real
Caring for the Caregiver
November is National Caregiver Appreciation Month! When discussing topics surrounding chronic health conditions and the associated symptoms, it is easy to overlook a very important part of the discussion: the effect on the caregiver. Chronic conditions like Sickle Cell Disease do not only affect the patient; they affect the parents, grandparents, spouses, children, siblings, and anyone else who helps to make life as comfortable as possible for their loved one.
Taking Care of Yourself
One of the biggest concerns in caregiver health is the development of depression or depressive symptoms in those who are full-time caregivers for ill loved ones. There is some variation in estimates of how prevalent depression is in caregivers, but studies show that any where from 20-60% of caregivers experience depression while in the caregiver role.
When caring for a loved one who is ill, it is very common for a caregiver to put themselves on the back burner, so to speak. It is very easy for us to become so engaged in taking care of someone else, that we forget to take care of ourselves. While our intentions are good, this selfless behavior can cause more problems than good, especially when it leads to caregiver burnout, which in turn, ends up causing depression or depressive symptoms.
It is important as a caregiver to watch yourself for signs of burnout or depression
It is important as a caregiver to watch yourself for signs of burnout or depression. While these signs do not always mean that burnout or depression is occurring, it is important to address them so that they don’t worsen over time.
Signs to Look For With Burnout or Depression
Most of the signs involve some form of change in behavior. Examples include changes in appetite or weight, suddenly sleeping too much or not getting enough sleep, losing interest in things that you usually enjoy, becoming easily irritated, or withdrawing from your friends and family. These changes in behavior are sure signs that a person isn’t quite feeling like their usual self, which is often due to emotional fatigue. Other signs to look for are frequent illness or chronic fatigue. The way we feel emotionally affects our physical health. When people are emotionally exhausted or overwhelmed, it can take a major toll on the immune system, causing frequent illness.
Some signs are harder to spot in others and can be more difficult to discuss. Having a prolonged feeling of intense hopelessness or having thoughts about hurting yourself or other people is a major sign that you are not feeling your best. While it can be difficult to address these thoughts and feelings, it is extremely important not to ignore them, as they often increase over time and can become very extreme.
These are some of the more common signs of burnout or depression, but there are many other warning signs that could point to these issues. Any time that you notice yourself or someone around you suddenly acting differently, take note. As hard as it is to have sometimes, we must a conversation about mental wellbeing. Recognizing the signs early and addressing them is one of the best ways to avoid bigger problems down the road.
Ways to Prevent or Reduce Caregiver Burnout
There are many ways in which you can prevent burnout from occurring or make yourself feel better if it already is. The first and most important is to make sure you take care of yourself. When you are responsible for taking care of someone else, especially someone you care about, it is easy to forget to take care of yourself. Taking the time to eat an uninterrupted meal or to take a relaxing shower can go a long way in maintaining mental wellbeing. And do not only focus on the basics; do nice things for yourself. Treat yourself to a massage or pedicure or buy a gift for yourself.
When you are responsible for taking care of someone else, especially someone you care about, it is easy to forget to take care of yourself.
If it is difficult to find the time for these things, look for local respite care services. These services are designed to provide a break for full-time caregivers. Many of the services offer a temporary caregiver who can come to your home for a few hours during the day, while others can offer services for several days at a time. Utilizing these services to give yourself even a short break is a great way to decrease stress.
Another key ingredient to mental wellbeing is support. Talking to someone about your feelings and frustrations is extremely helpful in reducing stress. Whether you find time to talk to a trusted friend, or you make an appointment with a professional, giving yourself a space to talk about the difficulties of caregiving is very helpful. If you are not sure who to speak with, you could also find a local caregiver support group. These groups are an excellent way of meeting others who share your experiences.
No matter which method you choose, caring for yourself is just as important as caring for your loved one. By making sure to keep up with your personal wellbeing, you are ensuring that you are able to care for others in the best way possible.
No matter which method you choose, caring for yourself is just as important as caring for your loved one
Disclaimer: All information contained in the Sickle Cell 360 blog is intended for general, eduational or background purposes only and should not be used as medical advice for any individual. Please consult your health-care provider or providers for information specific to your own condition or illness. If you need assistance locating a medical doctor or other health-care provider, please call us at 1-844-994-Hope or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.