Understanding Carer Fatigue

Although caring for a person in need is immensely rewarding, it can also pose many challenges. Many carers become so concerned with providing exceptional care to their loved ones that they may neglect their own physical, mental or emotional needs.

Carer fatigue and burnout occur when the challenges of caring for a loved one become overwhelming for a carer. Short-term respite care allows a family carer to take a break from their usual caring duties so that they can focus on their physical and emotional well-being.

Here is some advice on coping with the often under-reported issue of carer burnout and where to turn in case you need extra support in caring for a loved one.

WHAT IS CARER BURNOUT?

Carer burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion caused by the stress and challenges of caring for a loved one.

Although many people find caring for a loved one to be enjoyable and rewarding, every carer needs regular breaks. The problem is that many carers often feel guilty spending time on themselves rather than on the person they care for, leading to fatigue and eventually burnout.

If carer stress and fatigue are not appropriately addressed, they can lead to a variety of physical health problems along with feelings of loneliness, underappreciation, anxiety and even depression.

What causes carer burnout?

Carer burnout can stem from various factors, including:

  • Emotional and Physical Demands: The constant emotional and physical demands of caring for a loved one can take a toll over time, leading to exhaustion and burnout.
  • Lack of Support: Many carers feel isolated and unsupported in their caregiving role, which can exacerbate feelings of stress and overwhelm.
  • Neglecting Self-Care: Carers often prioritise the needs of their loved ones over their own, neglecting self-care activities that are essential for maintaining their well-being.
  • Financial Strain: The financial strain associated with caregiving, such as reduced income or increased expenses, can contribute to stress and burnout.
  • Unrealistic Expectations: Unrealistic expectations, either from oneself or from others, can lead to feelings of inadequacy and frustration when unable to meet those expectations.
  • Chronic Health Conditions: Carers may also be managing their own chronic health conditions, further adding to the stress and burden of caregiving.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CARER BURNOUT?

It is important to know the signs and symptoms of carer fatigue so that you can recognise if you are experiencing any of them. Carer breakdown symptoms can include any of the following:

  • Feeling anxious or depressed
  • Feeling angry or irritable
  • Feeling worried or overwhelmed
  • Feeling exhausted or tired, even after resting
  • Having difficulty switching off and relaxing
  • Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Neglecting your needs or physical health
  • Isolating yourself emotionally and physically

Many people do not realise that carer depression and burnout can also have physical symptoms. Here are some warning signs to look out for:

  • Aches and pains
  • Frequent headaches
  • Overeating or under-eating
  • Unusual changes in weight
  • Sleep disturbances
  • A weakened immune system, leading to frequent infections

COPING WITH CARER BURNOUT

Coping with carer burnout is essential for maintaining your own well-being while providing care for a loved one. It involves recognising your limits and seeking support when needed. Here are some effective strategies to help you navigate through the challenges of carer stress and fatigue:

SET REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS

Setting realistic expectations is crucial in managing carer burnout. Understand your capabilities and limitations, and prioritise tasks accordingly. Focus on what you can accomplish effectively and consider delegating other responsibilities to family members, friends, or professional caregivers. By setting achievable goals, you can reduce stress and prevent feelings of overwhelm.

ASK FOR HELP

It’s important to acknowledge that you don’t have to shoulder the caregiving burden alone. Reach out to your support network, including family, friends, and community resources, when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Express your needs and concerns openly, and be willing to accept assistance when offered. Seeking help not only lightens your workload but also strengthens your support system, fostering resilience in times of difficulty.

Support groups for carers can offer support in difficult times as well as an opportunity to socialise and make new friends. Carers UK and Age UK both offer free support groups for carers.

TAKE REGULAR BREAKS

Try to find a moment for yourself every day to relax and de-stress, even if it is only for ten minutes.

ACCEPT YOUR FEELINGS

Know that it is okay to experience feelings of anger, loneliness, or frustration. It does not mean that you are a bad carer or person.

Acknowledging and accepting your feelings is an essential step in maintaining your emotional well-being while caring for a loved one. It’s common to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or even resentful at times, especially when facing the challenges of caregiving. However, suppressing these emotions or feeling guilty for experiencing them only adds to your stress and can lead to burnout.

TALK TO OTHER CARERS

Talking with other carers facing similar challenges may help you. Support groups for carers can offer support in difficult times and an opportunity to socialise and make new friends. Carers UK and Age UK both offer free support groups for carers. There are also online support groups and chatrooms available.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

Ensuring that you prioritise your own physical health is crucial for sustaining your energy and resilience as a carer. This involves getting sufficient rest, eating nutritious food, and incorporating regular exercise into your routine. Adequate sleep and proper nutrition are vital for replenishing your energy levels and supporting your immune system, while regular exercise helps reduce stress and promotes overall well-being.

Remember to carve out time for self-care activities that nourish your body and mind, whether it’s practising relaxation techniques, enjoying a hobby, or spending time outdoors.

GET SOME RESPITE CARE

Respite care provides you with a valuable opportunity to take a break from your caregiving responsibilities and focus on your own needs and well-being. It involves arranging for a qualified and compassionate carer to temporarily take over your caregiving duties while you rest and recharge.

Respite care can range from a few hours to several days, depending on your needs and preferences. Importantly, you don’t have to wait until you feel overwhelmed or overly stressed to arrange respite care. Incorporating regular respite breaks into your caregiving routine can help prevent burnout and ensure that you remain capable of providing the best possible care to your loved one.

HOW PRESTIGE NURSING & CARE CAN HELP

For over 75 years, Prestige Nursing & Care has been trusted by its clients and their families to provide competent and compassionate respite care at home services. Our care is focused on improving health and overall well-being, and all in the place people love most, their own home.

Respite care allows you to take the time you need to give yourself a break to improve your emotional well-being, enabling you to provide a better level of care. Respite care also provides families with the opportunity to see how a home care service would work in practice to see if a permanent arrangement would be the right care choice.

Respite care services can be used to support someone with a condition that impacts their ability to live independently and needs condition care, for example, for people living with conditions such as dementia or Parkinson’s.

Whatever you decide, remember that you are not alone. Caring for someone you love can be challenging work but help and support are available to enable you to get the time off that you need.

If you feel that a few hours off a week will benefit you as a carer, contact us to see how we can help.