Many times in my blog, I’ve written about being a caregiver for my mother who had Alzheimer’s disease. People sometimes ask me about caregiver burnout and did I go through that experience.
Yes, I absolutely did experience burnout.
I was consumed by providing perfect care, which, of course, wasn’t feasible. It was difficult to see it at the time, but I was making myself sick in the process.
At one point, I ended up in my doctor’s office with a long list of symptoms — stomach pain, indigestion, sleep issues, feelings of dread, headaches, dizziness and more. After many tests, my doctor sat me down for a talk. He thought my symptoms were brought on by stress. He gave me a pep talk and sent me on my way.
Driving home, I remember feeling panicked.
What would happen if I couldn’t continue to care for my mother? This was a real possibility. If I stayed on the same path, I could also harm my own health. With a lump in my throat, I asked a hard question: How much do I give up to care for my mom?
Something had to change, and over time it did.
With the help of friends, family and online support, I was able to strike a better caregiving balance.
Alzheimer’s Caregiving in Perspective
First, I came to terms with the fact that I could not cure my mom. Her Alzheimer’s disease was progressing, and my goal had to be realistic. Instead of a cure, my goal became making Mom’s life a little better. I came to realize this smaller goal was attainable. It was possible to make a difference in my mom’s life as she moved through the disease.
Eventually, I was also able to give up on my quest for caregiver perfection — an impossible goal. My new mantra became: “Good enough is good enough.”
While in the midst of caregiving it is really, really difficult to see your situation clearly.
Some part of me believed this extreme dedication was a sign of being a good daughter, but I learned it is impossible to sustain this level of commitment and the sacrifices that come with it. Not only could I not sustain it, but I was now having health problems of my own.
Caregiver Burnout Warning Signs
Below is a list of caregiver warning signs that might apply to you or someone you know:
- Refusal to take any breaks or share caregiving duties
- Believing no one else can provide care for your loved
- Symptoms of insomnia or fatigue that doesn’t go away, even with adequate sleep
- Isolating yourself from family and friends
- Crying easily and quick to lose patience
- Harboring feelings of resentment, hopelessness, and even dread
- Having feelings of resentment toward the person under your care
Remember, caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint. You’ve got to pace yourself for the long distance and this means conserving both your mental and physical energy.
Finally, ask yourself, “Would my loved one want me to completely give up my own life at the expense of my own physical and mental wellbeing?”
I think all caregivers would agree the answer is ‘no.’