While caregiving can be a rewarding and meaningful experience, it can also be stressful. Because caregivers must often prioritize the needs of the person they are caring for over their own, they can experience frustration, social isolation and impacts on their own psychological or physical health. This is sometimes compounded by feelings of sadness which are related to the changes the person they are caring for is experiencing, or a type of grief called anticipatory grief, which refers to strong feelings of loss which occur before a person passes away.
Caregivers who are engaged in the paid labour force, or who are caring for children often experience the additional stress of balancing other commitments with their caregiving duties.
What is the difference between caregiving stress and caregiver burnout?
While many people who are caregiving will experience stress from time to time, burnout refers to prolonged and significant stress, often characterized by a state of exhaustion. While the symptoms of burnout vary from person to person, it is often marked by extreme physical and mental tiredness, anxiety and depression.
What can you do about caregiver burnout?
Good self-care measures can help fight caregiver burnout. Here are some things to explore:
- For many caregivers “venting” can help to temporarily relieve stress. Aim to create a space where you can be honest about the feelings you are experiencing. This may mean speaking to a friend, or another supportive person in your life or scheduling time to speak with a professional.
- Build breaks into your week. Consider working with other family members to help share the load, or engage one of the many reputable home health care services listed on Route 65. Having a regularly scheduled day or time where you are free from caregiving can be an important self care measure.
- Caregiving can sometimes feel thankless. Take time to remind yourself that you are doing a good job and congratulate yourself on what you are doing well.
- Consider a mindfulness practice. Plenty of research indicates that mindfulness can help with sleep, anxiety and depression. Mindfulness can be practiced on your own, or through a class or program.
- Across B.C. several non-profit organizations exist to support caregivers, free of charge. Check out our resource page to learn more about what is available.
- Working caregivers who are feeling burnt out might consider taking a leave of absence from work. Knowing what benefits and leave options are available can help ease anxieties. Talk to your HR department, as some organizations may offer additional benefits to support caregivers in the workplace.
- If you are feeling burned out, it might be an indication that the person you are caring for needs additional support, such as assisted living or long-term care services. Learn about your options, and how to make a transition.
- If you think you might be experiencing depression or anxiety it is always a good idea to speak to your doctor, as there might be lifestyle changes or medication which can help.