How to Recognize the Signs of Caregiver Burnout during the Holidays

Family caregiver burnout over the holidays

As our population continues to grey, more and more adult children in Seattle and the Puget Sound region find themselves taking on the role of family caregiver. In most families, the adult daughter is the one who assumes this role. She often does so while raising her own family and working outside the home at least-part time.

A typical day in the life of a family caregiver might include getting lunches packed, dropping the kids off at school, picking up a prescription at the pharmacy and dropping it off to an aging parent’s home. And that’s all before she heads off to work.

When you add in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to understand why this time of year is such a stressful one for caregivers. If the burden becomes too great, it can lead to a serious health crisis for the caregiver. But it’s sometimes hard to recognize when a stressful schedule crosses the line and puts the caregiver at risk.

If you are concerned about your own health or that of a family caregiver you love, this quick quiz can help you identify your risk for burnout. 

Take Our Caregiver Burnout Quiz

Caregiver burnout sometimes starts with a few small warning signs. In the course of a busy day, they are easy to overlook. Ask yourself if any of these symptoms sound familiar?

  • Increasingly short-tempered or easily angered
  • Frequent or chronic headaches
  • Change in sleep habits whether it is an inability to sleep or the need to sleep too much
  • Fatigue that goes beyond being tired or sleepy
  • Stomach and digestive problems
  • Depending on unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking to cope with stress
  • Inability to complete simple tasks
  • Feeling tearful and overwhelmed
  • Poor nutrition that leads to unintentional weight gain or loss
  • Arguing with friends and family members over unimportant issues
  • Growing sense of resentment toward the loved one you are caring for
  • Losing touch with friends and loved ones
  • Withdrawing from favorite hobbies and past times
  • Not finding time to exercise

If you answered “Yes” to more than one or two of these symptoms, it’s time to take this issue seriously.

Finding the Help and Support You Need as a Caregiver

Here’s what you can do to get your own health back on track and to begin to create a more manageable schedule.

First, it’s important to have a through health evaluation of your own. Call your primary care physician to schedule a physical. If you’ve neglected your own health screenings (and many family caregivers do!), your doctor can help you get back on track before a serious health issue arises.

The next step is to accept the idea that you can’t go it alone. No one can. It’s time to ask for and accept help.

  • Family Meeting: Organize a family meeting even if it is via Skype to discuss your parent’s care and see who else can pitch in to help. If your siblings live too far away to help on a daily or weekly basis maybe they can cover the cost of in-home care a few hours a week?
  • Adult Day Services: Most cities have adult day programs for older adults who need a little more help. While each one offers different services, many help with personal care and medication management. Some of these programs even provide transportation services.
  • Respite Care: If help from family members isn’t an option, exploring local respite care could be the solution you need. Your older loved one might enjoy themselves and it will give you a much-needed break in your day. Many of the Seattle area senior living communities we work with offer respite care.
  • Join a Caregiver Support Group: Having a peer group to share your caregiving struggles with can help you on a variety of fronts. Members offer each other suggestions for coping with challenges. These groups also provide a safe place to vent your frustrations where you won’t be judged. Online support groups are an option if you aren’t able to join a group near your home. The Family Caregiver Alliance and Caring.com can help you connect with one.

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