Emotional Exhaustion from Caregiving

Emotional Exhaustion from Caregiving and How to Deal with It

As a caregiver, you might suffer from emotional and mental exhaustion. This kind of stress can give you a case of caregiver emotional exhaustion. It can also put your health at risk. What are the signs of emotional exhaustion and what should you do about it?

The signs of caregiver burnout

Caregiver burnout starts with a lack of energy and overwhelming fatigue. No matter how much you sleep, you’re still tired. You might also gain or lose weight because your eating habits have changed. You’re becoming more impatient, argumentative and irritable. It’s happening not only with your loved one but other family members as well. You suffer from depression, mood swings and coping with everyday activities is becoming more difficult. You are becoming more anxious about what the future holds. Plus, your stomach is upset constantly, and your head hurts often. It might seem that caregiving is taking over all aspects of your life.

Emotional Traps for Dementia Caregivers

It’s very stressful caring for a loved one who has dementia or any other chronic disease. It can trigger some unhealthy emotions which can harm your health. These emotions can also undermine your self-confidence. Below are some of these emotions, what causes it and the risks they evoke:

  •         Guilt: Guilt is from doing what you believe may be the wrong thing to do. Or not doing enough of what you perceive as the right choices. But it’s a no-win situation and puts unnecessary strain on you. It’s a corrosive emotion because you’re berating yourself over misperceived faults. Ones that couldn’t be avoided because you’re human.
  •         Resentment: It’s an intense emotion and caregivers are afraid to admit that they have it. It rises in caregivers when they don’t have enough help. You could start to resent the members of the family who have a normal life. You can even start disliking the family member that you are caring for.
  •         Anger: There are reasons for anger, and you may show it inwardly or outwardly. You could be angry because of unfair criticism by another family member. Plus, maybe you don’t get enough sleep and your temper is short. The bad thing about chronic anger is that this can cause a variety of health issues. These could include digestive-tract disorders, headaches, heart attack, heart disease and high blood pressure.
  •         Loneliness: Loneliness shrinks your world before you even realize it. One day you’re out with friends enjoying life. Suddenly, you’re taking full-time care of a family member. Because you don’t have the time you need, you’ve dropped out of any outside activities. Also, if your loved one has dementia, every day they slip away.
  •         Grief: Someone doesn’t have to die to grieve. There’s a reason why dementia is called “the slow death.” When you’re a caregiver taking care of someone who has a chronic illness, anticipatory grief isn’t uncommon. If you believe that you can’t grieve someone who is still alive, then this could be a risk for depression.

To cope with these emotions and the exhaustion it causes, give yourself a break. Ask for help when needed, or hire a care team to come in for Respite Care. Don’t feel guilty about the respite care. You wouldn’t feel guilty about using a doctor. Get up earlier for some “me” time. Eat right, exercise and try to get enough sleep. Take walks, see some friends; even just take a long relaxing bath.

Taking care of yourself is important. If you don’t, who is going to?