Caregivers are generally so busy caring for their family member or friend that they often tend to neglect their own physical, emotional and spiritual health. The physical demands of caregiving along with the stress of seeing your loved one suffering can cause you to feel overwhelmed and anxious. This is particularly true when caring for someone with a progressive disease like Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) for which there is no cure. 

Burnout can happen when you as a caregiver do not get the care and help you need and when you continuously try to push yourself to do more that you possibly can. 

Here are some signs of caregiver burnout to watch out for

  1. Neglecting your own health and symptoms
  2. Delaying or putting off your own doctors’ appointments
  3. Skipping meals, not taking the time to eat well, or eating “junk food”
  4. Not exercising, for lack of time
  5. Smoking or drinking excessively due to feeling stressed
  6. Feeling sad, depressed, or hopeless
  7. Inability to sleep
  8. Lack of interest in connecting with friends and socializing
  9. No motivation to do things/activities you once enjoyed
  10. Lack of energy
  11. Feeling of resentment for the situation you are in or towards other family members who you think are not doing enough to help

Some long term effects of caregiver burnout:

  1. Prolonged caregiving can impact your own immune system and can increase your chances of developing a chronic health condition
  2. Excessive stress can lead you to age prematurely
  3. It can even shorten your lifespan

Tips to prevent caregiver burnout:

  1. Be kind to yourself – you cannot pour from an empty cup 
  2. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do, and ask for help when needed
  3. Accept offers of help and suggest specific things someone can do to help
  4. If you find yourself feeling depressed, reach out to a professional 
  5. Educate yourself about your loved one’s condition so you know what to expect at each stage and can be better prepared
  6. Explore technologies and ideas that can increase your loved one’s independence 
  7. Caregivers often do a lot of lifting, supporting, pushing and pulling. Be good to your back
  8. Seek support from other caregivers. It helps to know you are not alone
  9. Allow yourself to grieve over the loss of the time and energy you once had before you got into the role of a caregiver and find pleasure in doing things you still can
  10. Look for local organizations that can provide respite care, so you can take regular breaks. This may also allow you to take a vacation
  11. Consider getting a long term care (LTC) insurance policy

While many aspects of caregiving are stressful, it has beneficial effects too. We have heard many positive stories from caregivers who love taking care of and spending time with their loved one. Often, caregivers share that they feel positive about being able to help, they feel appreciated by the person receiving the care, and they have gratitude for their own health and life and all that they are able to do! Being aware of the signs of burnout and proactively doing things to address them will do wonders to improve your quality of life and that of your loved one.

To connect with others who can relate, join our online community forum, and attend our virtual support groups on Zoom.

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