Do you know a person who is care giving for a spouse or a parent? Did you know that care giving burnout increases the risk of illness or death dramatically? The chances of a care giver becoming incapacitated (or dying before their loved one) creates dangers and serious problems for the person being cared for as well as the rest of the family.
A Care Giver Story
We were just working with John and Sue and want to share their sad story so that others can, hopefully, avoid the same outcome. John was caring for his wife, Sue, in their home. Sue had been diagnosed almost 5 years ago with dementia and he had promised that he would keep her at home. As time passed, she needed more care and support and became less able to go out or do anything for herself. John did everything both in the home and for her. Sue would not trust, nor allow anyone else, even their daughter, to help. He became more isolated and worried. He got less sleep and rest and did not take care of his own physical and emotional needs. Then John had a stroke, became bedridden and had to move to a skilled nursing facility. They could no longer keep Sue at home. And John was so upset that he couldn’t be there that he had another stroke and died.
Signs of Care Giver Burnout
Their daughter, Joanne, now realizes that perhaps she should have insisted that Sue (and perhaps John) should have moved to a community where they would get the support they needed. Perhaps then John could still be present and be with Sue. Joanne wishes she had looked more closely at the signs that they needed help and called someone to advise her. Here are some signs of care giver burnout to watch for…
- Missing or delaying doctor appointments
- Ignoring health problems or symptoms
- Not eating a healthy diet
- Overusing tobacco and alcohol
- Lack of exercise
- Lack of sleep
- Losing connections with friends
- Bottling up feelings of anger and frustration
- Feeling sad, depressed or hopeless
- Loss of energy
- Lack of interest in things that used to give pleasure
- Feeling resentful or blaming others
All caregivers who experience elevated levels of stress are at an increased risk for physical and emotional issues. Even if you notice only two or three of these items, it is important to get help and support. The truth is that care givers need to be healthy in order to provide care!