Learn more about caregiver fatigue, what it is, and how to prevent it.
As the population ages, more people who aren’t health care professionals are providing caregiving. Many family members who are actively caring for an older adult often don’t self-identify as a caregiver. A caregiver is defined as anyone who provides help to another person in need. This can include an ill spouse, partner, or an aging relative. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 1 in 3 adults in the United States provides care to other adults as informal caregivers. Recognizing this role can help caregivers receive the support they need.
Taking care of a loved one can take a toll on your emotional and physical health as caregiver fatigue- or caregiver burnout. Caregiver fatigue occurs when the caregiver feels physically and emotionally exhausted, often leading to a change in attitude, negative feelings toward the job, the care recipient, and can sometimes cause feelings of resentment. Learn more about caregiver fatigue, what it is, and how to prevent it.
Signs of Caregiver Stress
As a caregiver, you may be so focused on your loved one that you don’t realize your health and well-being are suffering. The Mayo Clinic suggests watching for these signs of caregiver stress:
- Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried.
- Feeling tired often.
- Getting too much sleep or not enough sleep.
- Gaining or losing weight.
- Becoming easily irritated or angry.
- Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy.
- Feeling sad.
- Having frequent headaches, bodily pain, or other physical problems.
- Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications.
Strategies for Coping with Caregiver Stress
The emotional and physical demands involved with caregiving can strain even the most resilient person. Take advantage of the many resources and tools available to help you provide care for your loved one, including these Alzheimer’s Association tips.
Find community resources. Knowing what services are available such as adult day programs, in-home assistance, visiting nurses, and meal delivery can help you manage daily tasks.
Get help and find support. Churches, local and online community support groups can be good sources for finding comfort and reassurance.
Use relaxation techniques. Find a relaxation technique that works best for you to help relieve stress.
- Visualization (mentally picturing a place or situation that is peaceful and calm)
- Meditation (dedicating 15 minutes a day to letting go of all stressful thoughts)
- Breathing exercises (slowing your breathing and focusing on taking deep breaths)
- Progressive muscle relaxation (tightening and then relaxing each muscle group, starting at one end of your body and working your way to the other end)
Get moving. Physical activity can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Do an activity you love, such as walk, garden, or dancing.
Find time for yourself. Consider taking advantage of respite care so you can spend time doing something you enjoy while the person you care for continues to receive care in a safe environment.
Become an educated caregiver. As the disease progresses, new caregiving skills may be necessary. You may also find it helpful to talk to other care partners and caregivers about coping with the challenges of the disease and uncertainty about the future.
Take care of yourself. Visit your doctor regularly. Try to eat well, exercise, and get plenty of rest.
Make legal and financial plans. Creating legal and financial plans after a diagnosis allows the person with the disease to participate. You may want to seek assistance from an attorney specializing in elder law, a financial advisor familiar with elder or long-term care planning, or both.