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According to a 2018 survey by Statistics Canada, one in four Canadians provide care to a family member or friend. Many caregivers (47%) reported caring for parents or parents-in-law, followed by a spouse (13%), and a child (8%).
Caring for someone you love can be incredibly rewarding, but it’s also normal for caregivers to feel stress, exhaustion, loneliness, and frustration.
Signs you’re experiencing caregiver stress
It’s important to recognize the signs of caregiver stress and caregiver burnout so you know when to seek help. According to the Canadian Psychological Association, these signs include:
- Depression, anxiety, and irritability
- Trouble concentrating
- Disturbed sleep
- Feeling exhausted despite adequate rest
- A weakened immune system
- Loss of interest in personal needs, desires, and pastimes
- Increased feeling of resentment towards the care recipient and/or family/friends
- Loss in satisfaction of being a caregiver
- Feeling helpless, hopeless, and isolated
Tips for managing caregiver burnout
1. Ask for help
First of all, know that asking for help is not a sign of inadequate caregiving, but an important part of looking after your own wellbeing.
When asking friends or family members for support, put together a list of specific things you’d like them to do and let them pick one – most people will be happy to help and glad you asked them.
Alternatively, you may consider hiring someone to come in on a regular basis to carry out specific tasks. These could be household chores like cooking and cleaning, or personal support work like helping your loved one shower and get dressed.
If you feel like you need a complete break from caregiving, you might consider arranging for your loved one to enter a respite care facility for a short time.
2. Learn about the condition or illness
If your loved one has been diagnosed with a specific condition, learning about the illness can help you feel more in control. Knowing what to expect as the condition progresses can also help you plan for the future. You may need to set up power of attorney, for example, or explore care options as the illness advances. Having this plan in place can be a weight off your mind, helping improve the symptoms of caregiver burnout.
3. Seek support
While there are many people out there who can help you with the day-to-day realities of caregiving, there are also people you can turn to for emotional and psychological support.
This support can come from many places. It could be meeting a trusted friend or family member to talk over a coffee. Or you could find a local or online support group to meet people in a similar situation to yours. Alternatively, you might decide to speak to a qualified healthcare professional such as a counsellor or psychologist who may use tactics such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Interpersonal Therapy, or Psychodynamic Therapy to help you manage your caregiver stress.
4. Focus on your own health
This is important in any situation, but especially when you’re experiencing caregiver stress or caregiver burnout. Try setting a bedtime routine to help you get enough sleep, make sure you eat a varied and balanced diet, and aim to get 20 minutes of moderate intensity activity per day. Find time to relax and disconnect with activities you enjoy like going to the movies, reading, or listening to the radio. And finally, be sure to visit the doctor for regular checkups if your caregiver stress is becoming too much.
5. Accept your feelings
When caring for someone, it’s normal to feel a whole range of emotions. On any day you may feel happy, sad, frustrated, angry, afraid, and everything in between. Remind yourself that it’s ok to feel these emotions. Having negative feelings towards the situation or the person you’re caring for doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job of caregiving. Techniques such as mindfulness meditation can be a good way of learning to accept your feelings and not give them so much importance.
The information presented in this blog post is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this post as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for professional counseling care. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.