Caregiver Fatigue: Take Steps to Cope with Stress 

Caregiver Fatigue: Take Steps to Cope with Stress 

By DLC’s Access and Outreach Clinician, Cindy Gallo.

Taking care of a loved one who has a chronic illness such as Dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, physical disabilities, or any other age-related condition makes demands on your time, energy, and emotions. These demands can be very overwhelming. Caregiving can easily tax your patience and foster fatigue, frustration, and guilt, becoming a grueling grind that can pose many health risks. Along with the heavy workload and emotional demands of family caregiving, these issues may contribute to burnout. 

Some Causes of Caregiver Burnout as outlined by the Cleveland Clinic, John Hopkin’s Medicine: 

• Conflicting demands as you try to balance the needs of your loved one with expectations of other family members, co-workers, employers, and yourself. 

• Lack of control over health care costs, resources and a lack of skills needed to effectively manage a loved one’s care. 

• Lack of privacy because caregiving may leave you with little time for yourself or to be alone. 

• Role confusion, difficulty separating your roles as caregiver, parent, spouse, or sibling of the care recipient. 

• Unreasonable demands placed upon a caregiver by other family members, or the person being cared for. 

• Unrealistic expectations about the effect caregiving responsibilities will have on loved ones with progressive illnesses such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. 

Compassion fatigue is the physical and emotional stress that a caregiver may feel when caring for someone who has a significant physical or mental condition. Compassion fatigue is more than simply feeling tired after caring for someone who has had the flu for a week. 

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC), thirty six percent of family caregivers characterize their situation as highly stressful and indicate that within the first year of caretaking their own overall health and wellbeing has dropped from excellent or good to fair. This is often due to an onset of depression, mood swings, or resentment. Sleep deprivation is reported by thirty percent of caregivers and forty three percent indicate that caregiving responsibilities have negatively impacted their relationship with a spouse or partner. 

Therefore, it is so important to watch for signs of caregiver burnout and take proactive steps to help alleviate its impact before it becomes debilitating. 

The Alzheimer’s Association cites these ten indicators that a caregiver may be experiencing an elevated level of stress: 

• Anger or frustration toward the person you are caring for 

• Anxiety 

• Denial about your loved one’s condition and the fact that it may be worsening 

• Depression 

• Exhaustion that makes it difficult to complete daily tasks 

• Health problems such as increased fatigue or getting sick more often 

• Inability to concentrate which makes it difficult to perform familiar tasks or causes you to forget appointments 

• Irritability or moodiness 

• Sleeplessness 

• Social withdrawal from friends and activities you used to enjoy 

Tips to reduce caregiver stress: 

Give yourself a break. Ask a friend or relative to fill in for you for a few hours occasionally so you can take a walk, watch a movie, enjoy an activity such as playing cards or a sport, exercise, or socialize with friends. These things are especially important to help maintain your health and well-being. If you do not have this sort of informal support available or feel you need more structured respite care. There may be volunteers available through local senior centers or professional organizations such as the Parkinson’s Association of SWFL 

Simplify your communication. Keeping extended family and friends up to date about your loved one’s situation through phone calls or individual emails can be tiring. Identify a spokesperson who can be the communicator for you or there are websites such as CaringBridge that allow you to post updates for everyone with controls for privacy. 

Tap into online resources. There are many on-line resources such as the US government’s Eldercare Locator that can connect you with your local Area Agency on Aging that can guide you to resources in your community to assist you to deal with the challenges you are facing.  

AARP has an online resource called the Community Resource Finder that can assist you to find a range of programs and services in your area from Elder Law attorneys to transportation. 

Take Care of your own health- Mind, Body & Spirit. Set a goal to establish a good sleep pattern and to exercise a certain number of hours each week. Be sure to eat healthy foods and to drink plenty of water. Do not miss your own doctor’s appointments for routine screenings and recommended immunizations. Tell your physician that you are a caregiver and discuss any concerns you might have.  

A daily meditation practice utilizing relaxation techniques can be helpful. The YMCA of South Collier, which includes Naples and Marco Island offer Tai Chi and other exercise programs for seniors. They also offer the Rock Steady Boxing program, a nationally recognized training program for Parkinson’s Disease. 

Nurturing your mental health is critical for caregivers. We know there is a high incidence of depression that comes with this role. A consultation with a trained geriatric psychiatrist or therapist who can recommend a treatment plan to assist with caregiver stress and burnout is available at David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health (DLC)

Join a Support Group. If you feel you are alone in your struggle, talking with other family caregivers can lift your spirits, offer problem solving, and help you to think through some of your concerns. There is a national network for spousal caregivers called Well Spouse Association. You may be able to find a support group through a local church or hospital. 

Other local support groups are offered by the Parkinson Association of SWFL and the Alzheimer’s Support Network .

The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) provides an array of support groups in Naples. 

Nurture Positive Relationships. You may feel overwhelmed but take the time to seek out your closest friends and family members. You need good listeners in your life. Limit your interactions with negative people who will drag down your mood and perspective. 

Jan 27, 2022 | Blog, Mental Health

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