MedFlight911 Air Ambulance on Caregiver Burnout
Caregiving issues are important to us here at MedFlight911 because many of the patients who use our air ambulance service require some form of convalescent care or end-of-life care. For every patient we deal with there is always at least one caregiver involved. Previously we have discussed tips to ease caregiver stress and caregiver depression. Today I’d like to focus on caregiver burnout.
Not all caregivers will experience burnout, just like not all will experience caregiver depression. However, caregiving is hard work and it takes a toll. The combination of loss, prolonged stress, and the physical demands of caregiving put you at higher risk for health problems, depression and burnout.
In fact, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, if you are a caregiving spouse and are experiencing mental or emotional strain, your risk of dying is 63 percent higher than that of others your same age. Whether you’re taking care of a parent, a spouse, a child, or some other loved one, the fact is that being solely responsible for every aspect of a person’s care 24/7, no matter how much you love that person, can be really hard.
Symptoms of burnout
Burnout doesn’t feel like a like a cold or the flu. Much like the frog in boiling water, you may not even notice when you are experiencing it. The following are symptoms of burnout that you may notice in yourself or others may indicate they see in you:
- Feelings of depression
- A sense of ongoing and constant fatigue
- Decreasing interest in work or recreational activities
- Social withdrawal
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol
- Change in eating or sleeping patterns
- Inability to relax
- Scattered thinking
- Being on the verge of tears or crying a great deal
- Feeling increasing resentful and increasing short-tempered
- Increasing thoughts of death
What to do if you think you are experiencing burnout
Take care of yourself – On an airplane in crisis when the oxygen mask drops down, you are supposed to put on your own mask before helping others. Only when we care for ourselves can we effectively care for others. Caring for yourself is the most important, and most often forgotten, rule of caregiving. Whether you go for long walks, meditate, golf, or get a manicure – do something for you!
Get support – Say “yes” to any and all offers of help. If you don’t feel like you can get the support you need from family and friends, support groups can provide understanding and connection than friends often cannot.
Educate yourself – Learn as much as you can about your loved one’s illness so you can understand what is happening. Attend workshops and support groups to learn caregiving tricks. You need training for this job!
Take a break – Without breaks, it’s easy to begin to question yourself and feel inadequate, increasing the likelihood of burnout.
Remember, it is not selfish to focus on your own needs and desires when you are a caregiver – it is an important aspect of your job. You are responsible for your own self-care. Focus on the following practices and make them part of your routine:
- Learn and use stress-reduction techniques
- Pay attention to your own health
- Get proper rest and nutrition
- Take time off
- Seek support
- Identify and acknowledge your feeling and see a counselor if needed
Acknowledge the reality that your life as a caregiver is filled with stress and anxiety. It cannot be said too often: your number one job as a caregiver is to take care of you. You deserve to be taken care of. By taking care of you, you are guaranteeing better care for your loved one. For additional information, check out our blog post with tips to ease caregiver stress.