Caregivers have steadily become one of the most important professions in the country. This is especially true when you consider how the United States’ slow population growth is creating a higher demand for more professional caregivers.
Given this, it’s a real problem that caregivers continue to face challenges that hinder that affect their overall wellbeing and prevent them from doing their jobs. And while we can point to several factors that are affecting caregivers, caregiver burnout has been particularly damaging as of late.
Burnout is the general feeling of exhaustion (both mental and physical) that stems from extreme work-related stress. It’s become such a problem that the World Health Organization has officially declared it as an occupational phenomenon.
But what makes this such a serious issue for caregivers? How can this problem be addressed? If you want to know the answers to these questions, read on as we talk about caregiver burnout.
Being a caregiver is a physically taxing job. This is because they’re in charge of helping the people under their care with just about every aspect of their daily lives. This is especially true for caregivers who are in charge of seniors as they also have to ensure that their medical needs are met.
Due to the physically demanding nature of the job, many caregivers experience chronic body pain. Older caregivers are more susceptible to this issue, as they’re more likely to fall victim to the physical strain associated with the job.
The physical toll that the job exacts may lead to burnout. While feeling exhausted isn’t out of the ordinary, subjecting oneself to this for long periods of time will definitely cause long-term issues. This is why it’s important to invest in one’s health to make sure this doesn’t happen.
The mental stress that comes with the job can be just troublesome as the physical strain. Indeed, the responsibilities of caregivers can tend to weigh them down even when they’re off-duty. Aside from this type of stress, caregivers are also subjected to compassion fatigue.
Having to care for other people, especially individuals who are in particularly dire situations, can induce compassion fatigue in caregivers. Compassion fatigue or secondary traumatic stress disorder can cause confusion, helplessness, and mental tension.
While caregivers often work through the stress, neglecting this side of one’s health could lead to more serious issues down the line. It’s important to get a handle on this as soon as possible, as letting this issue persists could negatively affect one’s performance while on the job.
Aside from the mental stress that comes with the job, caregivers are also quite susceptible to mental health issues. In fact, caregivers in charge of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease are vulnerable to depression and were more likely to exhibit depressive symptoms over time.
This just goes to show how mentally exhausting this job is. It also doesn’t help that the job requires a certain degree of commitment that often leads to caregivers living more socially isolated lives, as most of their days are often dictated by their work.
The worst thing about this is that these issues can often go untreated. Only 41% of Americans that deal with mental illness and mental health issues seek help, which means there could be a substantial amount of caregivers that are currently struggling with their overall mental wellbeing.
Now, it’s important to note that there is no cure for caregiver burnout. The most one can do is to address the symptoms and improve one’s mental and physical health. We’ve listed down a couple of things to focus on that should help deal with the main symptoms of caregiver burnout.
Seeing a doctor regularly is a great way to improve one’s health. This is also a great way to catch problems before they progress. Doctors can also inform caregivers about which aspects of their health they have to focus on.
Aside from seeing the doctor, being more mindful about nutrition is also a great way to take care of one’s body. While the stress could be a good reason to binge eat junk food, this does more harm than good. Instead, caregivers should prioritise eating a balanced diet to help improve their energy and stamina.
Getting the right amount of exercise is essential when it comes to taking care of one’s body. While caregivers operate on a rather tight schedule, even the simple act of going on daily walks will do wonders. In fact, walking has been linked to improved cardiac health and fitness.
Burnout stems from being overworked. One way to remedy this is by achieving a healthy work-life balance. This can mean anything from participating in social activities to indulging in hobbies. Indeed, having a life outside of work will most often lead to a healthier life.
A great way to achieve this is by being more organized. Scheduling one’s day to day activities will allow you to make room for leisure. Now, if work is hectic taking 10-minute breaks should help relieve some of the work-related stress.
Lastly, seeking help when it comes to one’s mental and emotional health is pretty much a necessity when it comes to addressing caregiver burnout. Now, there are two main ways to go about doing this.
The first is availing of professional psychotherapy services to address the mental health issues that come with the job. In more advanced cases, you may even be prescribed medication to address depression and anxiety.
Support groups are also a viable option. Sometimes merely talking about your experiences with people who are going through or have gone through the same thing is a great way to process your own feelings.
We hope this information will help raise awareness about the issues that caregivers face. It’s important that we don’t neglect the well-being of this essential sector of the workforce. If you need any more information about caregivers and senior care, contact Senior Strong today!
Nathan Justice manages community outreach programs and forums that help many senior citizens. He completed a counseling program at the University of Maryland’s Department of Psychology.