I spent several years working in Palliative care in a nursing home setting and am fully aware that caregiver burnout is real which is why understanding the treatment of caregiver burnout is so important.
Prevention is always best but knowing what to do if you recognize symptoms of caregiver burnout is important.
Since our grandson was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in June 2019 I have been doing my best to help with Alex`s care in the hopes of giving my daughter the support she needs to hopefully avoid her getting caregiver burnout.
After all, as the mother of a type 1 diabetic, she gets little to no reprieve. Even when he is with me she is texting me asking for his numbers. Not much of a break but she is getting better at trusting my judgement and abilities in managing Alex`s diabetes.
In fact, we had Alex and his sisters for a sleepover on Friday night so his parents could have a worry-free date night. I know they appreciated it even if she wanted his numbers texted to her all evening.
Table of Contents
What is a caregiver
What is a caregiver?
Simply put, a caregiver is a person that helps another person with their medical and personal needs.
Unlike medical professionals, they are often family or a close friend or relative of the person they are caring for and are not always financially compensated for the work they are doing and the disruption this role places on their life.
The person being cared for is often a family member or friend who is chronically ill, has a disabling condition or is an older adult who can no longer care for themselves.
A caregiver`s duties may include:
- preparing meals
- running errands
- performing medical tasks, setting up tube feedings, administering oxygen, giving medications, managing diabetes
Our daughter and son-in-law are Alex`s primary caregivers, when he is visiting us I take on the role of primary caregiver and when he is at school his TA(teacher`s assistant) is his caregiver.
What is caregiver burnout?
Being a caregiver is both time-consuming and as well as physically and mentally exhausting. As a caregiver, you are often making some pretty serious decisions on behalf of the person you are caring for.
With a type 1 diabetic, you literally have their life in your hands.
What do I mean?
Well, if I give Alex too much insulin his blood glucose levels will drop too low risking diabetic coma.
If I don`t give him enough insulin his blood glucose levels will remain too high.
High blood glucose over an extended period of time can result in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) which is a serious, life-threatening complication of type 1 diabetes.
It is those types of decisions several times a day that make being a caregiver so stressful.
What causes caregiver burnout
Caring for a loved one can be very rewarding but it is also very stressful.
Because caregiving is often a long-term challenge the emotional impact can snowball over time.
I know that with our grandson’s diabetes it can be very challenging when we do our best to manage his blood glucose level but they insist on remaining too high.
It can feel overwhelming at times, it can sometimes feel like diabetes is kicking your butts, but you know you can`t quit or give up, you just have to keep trying.
The knowledge that there is no cure and that this struggle will go on for all of Alex`s life, and since he is only 6-years-old, hopefully, a very long time can feel so frustrating.
It is important to realize that if the stress of caregiving is left unchecked it can take a toll on your health, relationships and your own mental health leading to the state of emotional, mental and physical exhaustion that is called burnout.
If you get to that point both you and the person you are caring for will suffer.
When you are a caregiver, self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
You need to find ways to nourish your own emotional and physical well-being.
Caring for yourself is equally important as caring for your loved one.
Signs and symptoms
General warning signs may include:
- avoiding people
- feeling like you are losing control of your life
- lack of energy
- losing interest in things you normally like
- neglecting your own health needs
When burnout does occur it can have a profound effect on your physical health:
- body aches and pains
- frequent headaches
- increased or decreased appetite which may result in weight gain or loss
- weakened immune system
The emotional effects can be more subtle and more difficult to recognize:
- becoming argumentative or angry
- easily and frequently irritated
- constant worry
- sense of hopelessness
- inability to concentrate
- isolating yourself mentally and physically
- lost interest in favourite hobbies or activities
- lack of motivation
The sudden development of negative behaviours such as quickly losing your temper or neglecting your caregiver duties is another indicator of burnout.
If left unchecked and burnout progresses, depression and anxiety will undoubtedly increase. The caregiver may use alcohol or drugs in an effort to relieve the symptoms. This may lead to impairment risking the health and safety of both themselves and the person they are caring for.
The biggest factor in preventing caregiver burnout is to ensure you take care of yourself.
Self-care is not only essential for maintaining your own good physical and mental health but also helps you provide excellent care for your loved one.
There are simple things you can do each day to ensure you are maintaining your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Be sure you take time for yourself each day.
Read a book or write
Do you love to escape into the fantasy world of a great book?
I do and it can leave me feeling refreshed as though I have taken a mini-vacation.
Find an author or genre of book that you enjoy and give yourself some time each day to slip into another world between the pages.
I like to change the authors or genres I read from time to time for a nice change of pace.
A lot of you know I love to write.
I start every day by writing in my gratitude journal which puts me in a great frame of mind to tackle whatever the day brings my way.
I am also a blogger and so I love to spend time each day researching/ writing blog posts. I find them so satisfying and the process for me is so relaxing to just sit and let the fingers type away.
For me, the editing is more stressful and not as enjoyable as just letting the thoughts flow through the keyboard and onto the screen.
Do you like to write?
If blogging is something that interests you then check out the FREE training that got me started.
Prioritize your relationships
It is important you don`t neglect the rest of your family and friends. They will sustain you, keeping you happy and hopeful. Spending time with your spouse or other children is essential not only for your well-being but theirs as well. Take the time to enjoy time nurturing your other relationships.
Get out of the house
Getting out of the house is essential. Go for coffee with a friend or go see a movie with your spouse.
Staying cooped up in the house is only a recipe for disaster.
If the person you are caring for is able why not take them outside for walks or go for a country drive. It is amazing what a change of scenery can do to help you feel refreshed and you have a renewed sense of well-being.
We love taking our grandson on adventures. Playing soccer with him in the yard is always fun and often the whole family will join in.
Another great joy is taking the grandkids for sailing adventures during the summer and we all enjoy that.
This one is easy for us because a big part of managing Alex`s diabetes is feeding him a healthy, well-balanced diet.
It doesn’t mean we never eat the treats, it just means they are just that, treats that we indulge in only occasionally and in small amounts.
It just makes sense that we all eat the same good food.
Be sure your healthy diet includes a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Limit the consumption of sugary snacks or drinks.
Get regular exercise
We try to get outside every day for a walk or bicycle ride.
Try for a minimum of 30 minutes a day. We often head out for at least an hour.
When we have Alex here we head out to the trails for adventures.
Set personal health goals
I try to set personal goals such as maintaining a certain goal, eating healthily and getting an adequate amount of sleep each night.
Try to establish regular routines to make this easier such as:
- going to bed at the same time each night
- getting up at the same time each day
- eating regular meals and snacks
- setting a daily exercise routine
See your doctor
Be sure to get your annual physical exam to ensure you are in optimal health and are not battling health challenges of your own.
It is difficult to care for another if your own health is compromised.
Often friends or family members will offer to help. This makes it a good idea to be prepared with a list of ways others can help you and let the helper choose what they would like to do for you.
They may be able to run an errand, pick up your groceries, or cook a meal for you.
Accept the help graciously and enjoy that one task that was ticked off your list without you having to do it.
Focus on what you can provide
It is normal to feel like you aren`t making any difference and feel guilty sometimes.
Remember there is no such thing as a `perfect caregiver.`
Realize you are doing your best and that is all anyone can do.
I know that sometimes when I have Alex I feel like I am failing him if his blood sugars don`t respond to his insulin the way they should or he drops too low. I feel guilty that I may have given him too much insulin even though I never give it without the ok from my daughter.
The hardest part of diabetes is that it is so unpredictable. What worked yesterday may not work today and that is nobody`s fault, that is just the nature of diabetes.
Set realistic goals
My daughter struggles with this one. After every visit with Alex`s diabetes team, she is so full of big goals of getting his A1c levels lower by the next visit in three months.
While I applauded her determination and optimism I worry that she is setting herself up for failure.
After all, she can only do her part to manage his blood sugar levels but his body has to respond to that treatment and she has no control over that.
Many times his managing his diabetes takes so much time that I will take a cooked supper over for her and her family or I will bring the girls up here so she doesn`t have to worry about them.
Other times like Friday, I take all the kids and give them a whole night diabetes-free, and I take on the caregiver role.
Many communities have resources in place to assist caregivers such as transportation, meal delivery or housekeeping.
Learn what is available in your area and take advantage of it.
There may even be classes to help you learn more ways of dealing with the disease your loved one has.
When my mother had Alzheimer`s disease we took classes to learn effective ways of dealing with dementia patients as the disease took a tighter grip on her.
It helped so much not only in understanding what was happening with her and how to deal with it but also in meeting other people facing the same challenges.
Join a support group
In a nearby community, there is a support group for parents of type 1 diabetics that my daughter and son-in-law joined.
They have found it to be a huge blessing.
Our daughter and son-in-law have met other parents facing the same challenges and Alex got to meet some other type 1 kids’ so he doesn`t feel so alone in his disease.
Some great friendships were developed through joining a local support group.
Within this article, we have learned not only what is caregiver burnout but also about the treatment of caregiver burnout.
We have learned that self-care is not a luxury it is essential especially if you are a caregiver.
It is important that we take the time to nurture our other relationships and draw strength from family and friends.
Many communities offer resources that can be valuable assistance and a source of information.
Joining a local support group can be a big help and offer the support of others who are on the same journey. Who knows maybe you can even meet new friends which is always a great benefit.
Learn to accept help when it is offered and be sure to take time each day for yourself. Nurture your own mental, emotional and physical health.
I am not in any way a medical practitioner, please do not rely on the information on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another healthcare provider. We only share our experiences. We are affiliates, this means that if you purchase something from a link or ad on this site we may receive a small commission. This in no way affects the price you pay.
Are you a caregiver?
What helps ease the stress for you?
How do you exercise self-care?
Share your experiences and tips in the comment section below and remember to check out that FREE training about blogging. It really does teach you all you need to know to be successful online.