It's just one of those things you don't think about until it happens to you. Yet it may be happening to you now, and you don't even realize it.
I didn't notice my caregiver fatigue at first. I was consumed with the 24/7 care that my loved one needed and naïve to how long the journey would be. The fatigue built over the years, until eventually I found myself completely burnt out.
What is caregiver burnout?
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion resulting from providing care to someone.
Even though I am someone who often advocates for the benefits of healthy sleep, I was deprived of it, not from a personal sickness but someone else's. I was constantly woken up at night due to the needs of another. At first, it didn't bother me, but after years, the fatigue set in. Before I knew it, I was beyond exhausted; I was no longer a help to my loved one because I wasn't functioning well myself.
Know the signs of caregiver burnout
Be alert to changes in your behavior by asking yourself the following questions:
- Have you given up all of your time and the things you enjoy doing?
- Have your sleep or eating patterns changed?
- Have you withdrawn from social interactions?
- Are others commenting that they are concerned about you?
I know what you are thinking because I thought the same thing: No one else is knocking on the door to help, or only you can give the proper care for a relative. My family member became very ill during COVID-19. There wasn't anyone knocking on the door then! Even extended family seemed very distant at the time. I made all these excuses, and I truly believed I was alone.
"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable." Isaiah 40:28
As I reflect on this verse, I am comforted. It's okay that I grew weary and tired, because God never did. When I was weak, He was strong.
How to combat caregiver burnout
- Seek Support. Immediate family is a great option, but sometimes immediate family members are hurting so much that they don't make themselves available. Don't think that is your only option. Reach out to your church, and let them know what you are going through. Seek community groups for talking or sharing resources. Search for respite care.
- Set Boundaries and Take Breaks. If you don't care for yourself, you will be no good to anyone else. You are not being selfish by taking time for yourself; you are being healthy. You need to be strong and of a sound mind if you are going to care for someone else.
- Self-care. Quiet time, exercise, and baths are great stress relievers. Allowing time for these things is essential. Spending time in God's Word and prayer should be priorities in this season as well.
- Forgive. Sometimes forgiveness is needed as it relates to caregiving. Suppose the sickness or injury came about from an automobile accident or the patient's negligence. These may require forgiving others. Caregivers also may need to release self-guilt and forgive themselves.
The most important thing for me was to know I had a loving Father to bring all my cares to; He’s the ultimate Caregiver. But I also needed practical assistance, and I didn't know where to go for help or where to get relief.
The good news is there are programs to help. Check out this guide to see what is available in your state: AARP's Family Caregiver Resource Guides.
I pray that if you find yourself where I was, you will seek help. If you are not the caregiver but you know someone who is, look for these burnout signs in them. Sometimes, we do not recognize these symptoms in ourselves. Pray for them and offer physical help if you are able.
As we think about caregivers we know, I want to leave you with one last thought. Often, our pastors do so much more than preach on Sunday. They are usually caregivers to a whole congregation. Realizing they may also experience burnout, please pray for your pastor and ask the Lord if there is a way you can help.
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Isaiah 41:10
Also seen in The Christian Post.