Looking after an ailing loved one is a major responsibility, but one many of us are happy to accept. However, no matter how well you plan for these changes in your life, there is always the risk of taking on too much. If this happens, your health will suffer, as will your capacity to provide proper care to your loved one. Failure to address this can lead to full-blown caregiver burnout and a complete inability to continue helping.
Here are signs you may be experiencing caregiver fatigue and could use the sort of assistance that professional caregivers provide.
Physical and Mental Fatigue
One of the earliest signs of caregiver fatigue is actual physical and mental fatigue. Keeping up with your previous responsibilities in life is now more difficult because of your caregiving duties. If by the end of the day, you have no energy left and simply want to crawl into bed, things are out of balance.
Even worse, you may find yourself extremely tired, but also unable to enjoy quality sleep or possibly get no sleep at all. Stress can have the dual effect of leaving us with no energy and little ability to rekindle it. Going through life with sleep deprivation also affects your ability to think clearly and make wise decisions. This can lead to errors that might even harm the person under your care.
Loss of Interest in Other People and Things You Enjoy
One of the ways people achieve a healthy life balance is through rewarding relationships and activities. The time we spend with partners, family, and friends enriches us as people. Similarly, the things we do outside of work and chores help to reveal hidden talents that can lead us down new and interesting avenues in life.
If your caregiving responsibilities leave you with almost no spare time, both areas will suffer. At first, you simply won’t have the time to call people back. Later on, your thinking will shift to, “If I go out for the evening, I won’t be able to help Mom get ready for bed. Then she won’t sleep, she’ll feel bad tomorrow, and it will be that much tougher for me.” The same incorrect reasoning will also cause your hobbies to fall by the wayside.
Stress has different effects for different people. It causes some to become so wound up, they start to feel physically ill, so the last thing they want to do is eat. Other people will binge eat to distract themselves from the tension or consume junk food because they no longer have the time or energy to shop and cook proper meals.
When we feel good, the little things roll off our backs. Cut off in traffic? Doesn’t matter. The doctor is running an hour late? There’s probably a good reason. Car won’t start? Well, it’s getting older in years and I forgot to take that into account.
When you’re a caregiver, patience is one of the supreme virtues you must uphold. Your loved one may have trouble speaking or walking, but they’re trying their best. You must be able to help and encourage them. Losing your temper easily can be discouraging and defeating for them. They will come to view themselves as a burden and an anchor around your neck. This frequent irritability will also surface your interactions with other people.
“I’m Not Good Enough”
Even if you have done wonderful things and helped your loved one lead an almost normal existence, a failure to consider your own health can cause distorted thinking. If you take on the degree of responsibilities usually held by two or more people, it would be a miracle if you always managed to fulfill them.
We love our relatives and always want to do our best for them, but no caregiver is perfect. If you reach a point where you can no longer realize this, or you fail to see it while everyone else does, this can have serious repercussions, such as depression and lack of self-worth.
Taking a Step Towards Change
Any one of these signs indicates you need a change. Accepting help from others is not a failure: it’s a sign of self-awareness and insight. Supplementing your caregiving duties with the assistance of a professional caregiver provides an incredible ally for both yourself and the person you love. Working together, you can deliver the kind of thoughtful care that will allow them to thrive and stay at home for longer.