Ask for outside help to avoid family caregiver burnout

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Do you have caregiver burnout? Ask yourself, are you:

• Withdrawing from friends, family, and other loved ones?

• Feeling blue?

• Experiencing changes in sleeping patterns?

• Feeling like you want to hurt yourself or the person you are caring for?

• Irritable?

• Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy?

• Seeing changes in your appetite, weight or both?

• Getting sick more often?

• Emotionally or physically exhausted?

• Unable to take a much-needed vacation because you are caring for a loved one?

If you experience two or more of these symptoms, you might be experiencing caregiver burnout.

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. Burnout can occur when home care providers don't get the help they need or if they try to do more than they are able to do.

Caregivers often are so busy caring for others that they tend to neglect their own emotional, physical and spiritual health. The demands on a caregiver's body, mind and emotions can easily seem overwhelming, leading to fatigue and hopelessness - and, ultimately, burnout.

Other factors that can lead to caregiver burnout include:

Role confusion: It can be difficult for a person to separate his or her role as a caregiver from the role as a spouse, employee, child or friend.

Unrealistic expectations: Many caregivers expect their involvement to have a positive effect on the health and happiness of the patient. In some cases, this might be unrealistic for people suffering from a progressive disease, such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's.

Lack of control: Many caregivers become frustrated by a lack of resources and skills to effectively plan, manage and organize their loved one's care.

Unreasonable demands: Some caregivers place unreasonable burdens upon themselves because they often think that providing care is their exclusive responsibility when it shouldn't be.

Those who are experiencing this burnout might do well to bring in professional in-home caregivers to help out from time to time.

Do your research to find competent, trained and reliable caregivers. They can be a big help to you and to your loved one.

Jennifer Redmond is the family care coordinator for Senior Helpers of Hilton Head Island. jredmond@seniorhelpers.com.

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