Contrary to what Forrest Gump said, life is not like a box of chocolates. Not everything in life is going to be a pleasant treat; there will always be something that you shall find too spicy, sour, or bitter for your taste. For instance, as a caregiver, you probably know that caring for an ill loved one comes with all the above flavors. You might even come face to face with a syndrome that is considered unpalatable: caregiver fatigue.
What is caregiver fatigue?
Caregiver fatigue, also called caregiver burnout, is defined as a state of mental, physical, and emotional tiredness, oftentimes associated with a change in behaviour and brought about by the responsibility of caring for someone else. For instance, a person with Alzheimer’s disease will need someone else’s care and attention for a long period of time. Eventually, the sustained efforts by a caregiver to keep an ill relative as healthy and happy as possible will later take its toll. Caring for someone who needs your help is a noble and loving way to give back – but doing this without help and training will result in caregiver fatigue.
“My father had a stroke last year. When I found out he was going to survive, I thought the worst was over and that my prayers have been answered. Now, I am happy he is still with me,” Karen, a twenty-year-old college graduate, shared her story. “But I constantly worry about him. He cannot walk, eat, or go to the bathroom on his own. As an only child, I am more than happy to help him, but I sometimes feel overwhelmed and alone,” Karen confessed. “And my mere admission of these feelings is making me feel terribly guilty.”
How common is caregiver fatigue?
Karen, who is suffering from caretaker fatigue, is sadly not alone. Despite the many people who feel crushed by the responsibility of caring for someone else, caregiver fatigue is both ignored and underreported. According to Alzheimer’s Association, more than four out of every ten people caring for people with Alzheimer’s confess to suffering from severe emotional stress. And when a caregiver feels guilty about being tired or stressed, it only leads to disastrous results. The guilt and denial of a burnt-out caregiver will undeniably be detrimental to the person receiving his care.
Why do I need to know what caregiver fatigue is?
Being a caregiver is an opportunity to give back and to spend quality time with an ill loved one. However, being a caregiver is also an obligation and part of a caregiver’s responsibility includes knowing about caregiver fatigue – and knowing how to handle it.
Not admitting that you feel tired and stressed after caring for an ill loved one won’t benefit anyone. If you are experiencing caregiver fatigue, it helps for you to acknowledge that you need to pay attention to your own needs for you to take better care of your loved ones.
What are the symptoms of caregiver fatigue?
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you might be suffering from caregiver fatigue:
- You are having bad days almost everyday
- You feel like your efforts are useless or inadequate
- You have withdrawn from your friends and other members of the family
- The things you used to love doing no longer give you a sense of pleasure
- You feel depressed, irritable, or angry most of the time
- You sleep or eat too little or too much
- You have been sick more often than usual
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