According to a report issued by the National Alliance for Caregivers and AARP, approximately 40 million Americans provide unpaid care to another adult. What is more, providing adequate care to a spouse or partner requires, on average, over 44 hours per week. Sadly, caregivers often devote so much time and energy to caring for a loved one that they fail to take adequate care of themselves. This has become so common that there is a term for it, “caregiver burnout.”
Caregiver burnout has been defined as a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude—from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned. Many caregivers even feel guilty if they spend time on themselves rather than on caring for their elderly or ill loved one.
If you are serving as the caregiver in your family, you need to understand the difficulty of what you are undertaking and recognize the signs that you may be trying to do too much. Are you approaching burnout? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you exhausted even after a full night’s sleep?
- Do you seem to catch an unusually large number of colds?
- Do you feel like your whole life revolves around caregiving but you don’t get any satisfaction from it?
- Are you always tense or feel like you’ve lost the ability to simply relax?
- Are you increasingly impatient with the person in your care?
- Do you often feel helpless, sometimes even hopeless?
If your answer to some of these questions is yes, and you didn’t feel this way until you began serving as caregiver, you may indeed be approaching burnout. You need to begin the process of caring for yourself. We’ll look at that next time.