The burnout caregiver involves mental and physical exhaustion of the person who is caring for another, usually an elderly, which becomes dependent after developing certain brain injury or degenerative disease.
If you care for a person with some kind of brain injury or illness, you are probably physically and psychologically exhausted. Moreover, you may feel guilty for feeling this bad, because you are supposed to take care of this person and you should be able to do it alone.
Characteristics of the caregiver syndrome
It appears frequently in people caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s disease or who have been with severe sequelae after suffering an accident vascular brain.
The care of this type of patients is very demanding, since they depend completely on another person to have their basic needs met.
You have to help them eat, you have to dress them, give them the medicines, help them go to the bathroom and a long etcetera, all day long, every day.
Undoubtedly, it is exhausting work for those who assume the responsibility of caring for such a dependent person.
This stress continued over time begins to cause physical and psychological symptoms in the caregiver, symptoms that together make up the so-called caregiver syndrome.
In many cases, the caregiver is a woman of average age who:
It is very close to the sick family member: it is the wife, the mother or the daughter.
She is very willing and responsible with her tasks.
Try to combine the activities of your life with the care of this family member in the best possible way
Believe that you can take care of this person on your own and also continue with your daily activities
What happens to the person who takes care of another?
With time, the person is assuming a great burden, physical and psychic. By personally taking care of everything related to the care of the sick, the caregiver gradually loses his independence, since all his time is dedicated to the care of his family member.
Thus, the caregiver disregards himself. He leaves his recreational activities, his social life is very reduced, he stops going out and after a while, the quality of life of the caregiver is very affected.
If you take care of a patient who is very dependent, you will not necessarily suffer from the caregiver syndrome.
But you must be very attentive to these symptoms, because physical and emotional stress can begin to affect you at any time.
In addition, the syndrome does not appear from one day to the next, but it is installed little by little.
The alarm signals to which you must pay close attention are the following:
Alterations of the dream
One thing is that one night you do not sleep well, but if you start having problems to sleep well most days, then surely you have a problem to solve.
Symptoms of anxiety You
may feel more anxious than before, and this may be a sign that caregiver syndrome is being installed in your life.
If you have adopted excessive and compulsive behaviors
If you have started smoking or do it more than before, for example, it may be an indicator that you are suffering from the syndrome. Excessive alcohol consumption and sudden mood swings are also warning signs.
Memory problems, lack of concentration
Do you have trouble concentrating on your daily tasks? Do you often forget what you had to do? Intense stress, continued over time may be the cause.
You have stopped going out
A person who is taking care full time a family member is gradually leaving aside their social life. If you have stopped seeing your friends and you do not even think about going out at night, then maybe you are starting to suffer from the caregiver syndrome.
Feeling identified with some of these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have the syndrome. However, you should be careful because you are undoubtedly in a very vulnerable situation.
Stages of the caregiver syndrome
As often happens with psychic or psychological disorders, these are installed little by little, through a process that takes a certain time.
We briefly explain that process, so that you can better understand what may be happening to you.
Stage 1. Assuming leadership
Many times a vascular accident is the cause of the brain injury that leaves the person disabled, and in other cases, it is degenerative diseases that one day the doctor diagnoses.
After knowing the news, and naturally, someone assumes the leadership and although the whole family can collaborate, only one person will be the main reference, and that person is you. That day begins your great journey of effort and dedication.
Stage 2. Great demand and few resources
It is possible that already in the first days of care you realize that the demand for time and other resources is really very big.
You try to cover all the needs of the patient, dedicating more time and more care. Many times the patient is not even able to collaborate minimally in their care, which is very draining for the caregiver.
Stage 3. Reaction to over-demand
After some time of great dedication on your part, of a lot of stress and effort, your body begins to react to the over demand.
Soon you will feel exhausted, physically and mentally. You may feel anxious and depressed. As mentioned above, sudden mood swings, sleep disturbances and social isolation are likely to occur .
Maybe you feel guilty for being really tired and for wanting (even for a moment) to leave the sick and have time for you.
At this stage it can be said that you are suffering from the caregiver syndrome.
Stage 4. Sensation of relief
Some people do not dare to express their sense of relief, once the person has passed away. The relief and the feeling of liberation is completely natural, to the extent that the caregiver was imprisoned in that situation.
Caregiver syndrome in senile dementia
Caregiver syndrome can present much more marked signs in people who care for patients with degenerative disorders of the nervous system, whose cognitive processes are deteriorating more and more over time.
Imagine what it means to take care of a very dear person, who actually does not even know you anymore, does not know who he is, where he is or at what time he is living. Nor is he able to say two coherent sentences in a row.
It is psychologically exhausting and very frustrating. And in addition, the caregiver knows that the disease is irreversible, and that it will only get worse. At the same time, he does not know how long it will last.
According to WHO data, there are currently more than 36 million people living with senile dementia. On the other hand, it is foreseen in view of the greater life expectancy, that within two decades this number will be substantially greater.
The large number of patients will increase the cases of caregiver syndrome. This means that resources must be dedicated not only to the care of the sick, but also to the care of those who care for these patients.
Different types of caregiver
There are different types of caregivers, and the syndrome affects each of them differently.
Formal caregivers are those who belong to an institution, such as a hospital or a nursing home.
Then there are the relatives who are informal caregivers, and who only take care of the patient from time to time, but not all the time.
And then there is the relative who lives with the patient and who takes care of him almost all the time, in general he is the wife, the daughter or the mother. These are the caregivers with the highest risk of suffering from the caregiver syndrome.
Of those affected, 63% are women and 37% are men.
To address this situation, today there are containment, training and assistance programs for this type of person.
Can caregiver syndrome be prevented?
Whenever there is a disease or an accident that generates dependency of a loved one towards another person, there will be negative effects.
You would not be human if you did not feel sadness, helplessness, and even what is much worse: a feeling of great guilt. Why? Because that loved one is depending on you to live, and sometimes you will feel the need to go out to distract yourself or take care of yourself.
Everything that you feel is completely normal. But in addition to this, you should know that there are tools and measures that you can take, that will help you mitigate the effects of the syndrome, or what is even better: avoid that situation becomes a disorder for you.
Here are some recommendations that can help you:
Recognize the problem
Effectively the illness of that loved one has generated a problem. As such you have to assume it, and plan the strategies to face it successfully.
Many people, either out of embarrassment or because they care about the “what they will say” minimize the situation and hide it.
Do not confuse leadership with responsibility It
may be that for different reasons you are the leader of this great mission that is caring for the sick, but that does not mean that you are the only responsible.
Maybe you think that if you do not eat the food or the medicines yourself, nobody else can do it right. You must learn to share these tasks and involve other family members and friends in the care of the sick person.
Talk about the topic
Talk about what you feel with a friend or other family member. When a problem is shared, the perspective changes completely. Sharing will relieve your load.
It is also important to communicate to health professionals, if you have noticed advances or setbacks in the situation of the patient you care for.
Never take for granted, that this or that change is typical of the disease. Trust the specialized people.
New life habits?
Perhaps you have neglected your diet or your activities, for devoting more time to caring for the sick person.
But it is important that your diet is balanced, healthy and natural and that you have moderate physical activity, so that your body can maintain its good health.
Spend time for yourself
To a certain extent, it is natural for you to put aside your desires, tastes or even your routine to take care of that person.
Without a doubt, when you take care of someone you have more responsibilities but you can not stop attending to yourself. If you do, you will feel bad, you will get sick and you will stop being a good caregiver.
Take some time to go to the movies with a friend, to go to the hairdresser or to that hobby that you like so much. This will help you clear your mind, you will feel much better and you can also take better care of the sick person.
Try to avoid overprotection
Sometimes and totally unconsciously, you protect too much that special being you are caring for.
You can hear yourself repeating: “such a thing can not do it because it makes you bad” or “I’m afraid something will happen to you and then I prefer to do it myself”. The truth is that you are placing on your shoulders more load than necessary. Besides, it does not do good to the other person.
Stay well informed
Sometimes you can feel irritated and frustrated because you think that the sick person does nothing to contribute to your rehabilitation or you think that he acts like that just to annoy you.
Learn about the brain damage of that person and you will better understand the way he behaves.
Also Read: Apathy: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments
This caregiver syndrome is much more frequent than you think. You must be alert to the first symptoms and share the responsibilities of caring for the sick with other people, to avoid exhaustion and deterioration in your life.