Caring for our loved ones can be rewarding, but it can also take a toll. It’s sometimes difficult to share the physical, emotional, and mental load of caregiving, but it’s essential to be open and honest with yourself and others about your current situation.
When caregivers help their loved ones without pausing to help themselves, do more than they are capable of, and don’t get enough rest or self-care, it can lead to caregiver fatigue. Ignoring signs of caregiver fatigue can lead to caregiver burnout.
You may feel guilty, stressed out, or anxious about taking a wellness break or some time to regroup, but remember: Your loved ones will benefit from you being your best self.
Causes of Caregiver Fatigue
Caregivers often neglect themselves and their own needs while caring for their loved ones. Caregiver fatigue is frequently caused by:
- Expectations: Are you placing too many tasks on your shoulders? Are you planning too many daily chores or activities? Are you overestimating your capabilities?
- The stress of role separation: Caregiving for a loved one is a significant role reversal. It can be a struggle to adjust to the dynamics of being a son, daughter, husband, wife, or companion, as well as the primary caregiver.
- Burdens: This role’s physical and mental responsibility can play a considerable part in feelings of fatigue. Are you taking on a large number of physical tasks? Juggling running the household and paying all the bills? Attempting to work a full-time job and be a caregiver for your loved one?
Caring for others places enormous demands on the body, mind, and spirit. Forgetting to take time for ourselves can cause a slow erosion of wellbeing, feelings of hopelessness, and often results in burnout.
Signs of Caregiver Fatigue
Recognizing signs of caregiver fatigue can help prevent caregiver burnout. Here are 10 signs to watch for:
1. Feeling a Loss of Control Over Your Life
Waking up in the morning and worrying about the day ahead because you have no idea what it will hold, and feeling helpless about the twists and turns of your current situation can take an incredible toll on the spirit.
2. Avoiding Social Activity
Connecting, sharing, and laughing heals the soul, but it can feel like a burden if you’re overwhelmed or emotional. Frequently canceling coffee or lunch dates, skipping walks, and avoiding friends and family can be a strong indication of caregiver fatigue.
3. Lost Interests
If you are no longer interested in your hobbies or other beloved activities, you could be suffering from caregiver fatigue.
4. Feeling Low
Everyone gets the blues, but feeling constantly unhappy, sad, or low is a strong indication of depression. Seek help immediately if you are having trouble coping with your everyday life.
5. Weight Loss or Weight Gain
Fluctuations in appetite or weight and a lack of interest in healthy foods and exercise can indicate caregiver fatigue.
6. Sleep Problems
Caregiver stress can result in difficulties falling and staying asleep, frequent wake-ups, and feeling weary even after a full night’s rest.
7. Frequent Illnesses
A large number of head or stomach aches, or an influx of cold and flu can be signs of stress and fatigue.
A consistent feeling of weariness, feeling unable to perform physical and mental tasks due to a lack of energy, difficulty getting out of bed or off the couch.
You find yourself unable to control irritation, are experiencing feelings of resentment, or being argumentative towards your loved one for circumstances beyond their control.
10. Neglecting Responsibilities
If you are busy caring for your loved one and forgetting about your appointments and bills, you could be suffering from caregiver fatigue.
How to Prevent Caregiver Fatigue
Being able to recognize the signs of fatigue will help you prevent caregiver burnout. If you notice any of these signs, it’s imperative to take additional steps like:
- Discussing your feelings with friends, family members, and professionals.
- Seeking extra help with daily tasks, either by enlisting other family members or hiring someone.
- Researching respite care in your area.
- Planning ahead, and knowing your loved one may require full-time care from a professional or assisted living in the future.
- Permitting yourself to administer self-care. Setting time aside for yourself is a necessity, not a luxury.
- Knowing your limits, both physically and mentally.
- Accepting feelings of frustration, knowing they are okay, and that they don’t make you a bad person or caregiver.
- Ensuring a healthy diet and getting enough exercise.
- Delegating, making lists of daily tasks, and seeing what can be passed to another family member or professional caregiver.
- Joining a support group in your area.
You Don’t Need to Lose Yourself
Caregivers often have a difficult time asking for help, and this can make life very isolating. Sadly, caregiver burnout is a common incident among family caregivers.
It’s imperative to watch yourself closely for signs of fatigue, use all available resources, and practice self-care. Remember that your loved ones will benefit from the very best you, which means maintaining your own physical and mental health.