Is Family Caregiver Burnout Real?


ACCORDING to WebMD, this is defined as “a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude – from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned.”

While caring for a loved one with dementia is very rewarding on many levels, the demands can lead to an overwhelming state of fatigue. This happens when one feels one has little to no control over the situation. If the stress of all care involved is not addressed, it can take its toll on your health, mind, and relationships, which will affect your daily activities including work performance at your job. These stressors include family dynamics, extra workload, financial pressure, and disruption in the household.

Of course, when this happens, you are now at risk for your own health, and this will then affect your ability to give proper care to your loved one. The important issue is the caregiver needs care too. Managing stress levels with the caregiver’s life is just as important as making sure loved one makes it to their doctor’s appointment.

Helpguide.org reports: “Without adequate help and support, the stress of caregiving leaves you vulnerable to a wide range of physical and emotional problems, ranging from heart disease to depression.” Therefore recognizing Warning Signs of stress, burnout and addressing the issue will decrease the state of Chronic Fatigue Burnout. A few of the signs of stress are as follows:

Common physical symptoms: • Being unable to sleep well • Headaches and backaches • Feeling tired most of the time—physically drained • Changes in your weight • Lingering colds

Common emotional symptoms: • Becoming easily irritated and frustrated • Feeling anger or resentment • Sadness and feelings of loneliness • Feeling overwhelmed or overloaded • Decreased self-esteem • Depression • Feeling emotionally drained

And these are more common according to helpguide.org, when you have reached burnout: “ You have much less energy than you once had – It seems like you catch every cold or flu that’s going around – You’re constantly exhausted, even after sleeping or taking a break – You neglect your own needs, either because you’re too busy or you don’t care anymore – Your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction – You have trouble relaxing, even when help is available – You’re increasingly impatient and irritable with the person you’re caring for – You feel helpless and hopeless “

Q: Now how do we avoid this here in St. Lucia?

A: The models from the UK, Canada and US are great, but they do not apply 100% to our Caribbean culture, as we do not have the available support that many of those countries attain. We have to modify to the needs and what is available here. Some of the basics we can do to avoid these stressors are: ASK for help. Do not feel ashamed as you cannot do this alone, join support groups (Angels of the West Indies have quarterly support groups), join a support group online, schedule a break for you, keep a good sense of humour, know your limits on what you can and cannot do, find spiritual strength, and appreciate all you are doing.

Q: What can I do when I have to work and I am kept awake all night to care for my mum? And I don’t have the finances for more hired help?

A: It is true there are no financial recourses out here at this time. However, this is a time to make a list of your family, friends, and talk about what kind of help you need. Family, friends, and even neighbours are willing to help in some way. If you cannot have a family member stay with your mum at night, maybe some of them can pull together finances that can help to hire someone to be there for your mum, so you can sleep and be more effective for work and continued care. Any amount of assistance, contribution is needed at this time: $20 for, 20 minutes of sitting with your mum while you go and take some deep breathing time, an errand, or maybe they can do the errand for you. Whatever the family member can offer, organize, and do not turn it down. Don’t be ashamed to say what you need. Some family and friends want to help, but do not know what is needed. Families that live at a distance are often a great support in many ways as well. You can obtain detailed information through http://www.albernihospice.ca/; http://www.internationalcaregiversassociation.com/,

You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.
— Kahlil Gibran
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