Caring for a loved one who is disabled, or aging can be both rewarding and challenging. This article explores the prevalence of caregiving among families, the signs and symptoms of burnout, and resources available to help.
Are you an informal caregiver?
Informal caregivers are those who provide home companion care to a friend or family member without pay. This care includes a wide variety of tasks, including:
housekeeping chores like laundry, washing dishes, vacuuming, and bed-making
household tasks like picking up prescriptions and groceries, paying bills, and balancing the checkbook
help with activities of daily living like brushing teeth, dressing, bathing, toileting, or transferring
medical tasks like administering medications, scheduling appointments, or changing wound dressings
In most cases, caregivers assist their own parent or parents. In other cases, they assist a friend, child, parent-in-law, or a grandparent.
Informal care by the numbers
The statistics about informal care are staggering and help contribute to our understanding of caregiver burnout.
Out of every three informal caregivers, one lives with the person receiving care. Those caregivers are essentially 'at work' at all times; they have little opportunity to disconnect and rest without responsibilities or the risk of a responsibility coming up, so to speak.
Family caregivers taking care of a relative with dementia spend an average of 9 hours per day providing care. Caregivers for recipients across all diagnoses average 24.4 hours per week providing unpaid care (and one in four spends more than 40 hours a week). Those who live with the person they provide care for are most likely to spend over 40 hours per week.
Nearly one-quarter of all informal caregivers will provide care for five years or more while 15% of caregivers will provide care for 10 years or more, which means many of these situations are not temporary or short-term.
Informal caregiving is most prevalent among Hispanic people; in the Hispanic community, 21% of all people are providing unpaid care to a friend or family member at home.
34% of family or informal caregivers are over 65 years old themselves.
Recognizing caregiver burnout
The statistics above make it easy to see how informal caregiving could become physically, mentally, and emotionally overwhelming over time. Caregivers often prioritize the care of loved one over the care of themselves and often feel guilty talking about how they feel or asking for help.
You might be on the brink of burnout if:
you've been feeling anxious
you've lost interest in the things you used to enjoy doing in your spare time
you avoid people and social settings
you're lacking energy or struggling to find enough energy to support your lifestyle
you're feeling sad, melancholy, or hopeless
you neglect your own health to care for a loved one
Once you reach burnout, the signs and symptoms above may worsen and new problems might develop, including:
aches and pains
changes in your appetite
a weak immune system—it feels like you're always sick
unexpected weight changes
Emotionally, it's common to be irritable or angry, anxious, worried, hopeless, impatient, distracted, or unmotivated, although these changes come on gradually and those around you are more likely to notice the change before you are.
Burnout is your body's way of telling you that you need rest. Helping Hearts at Home offers full-time, part-time, or as-needed companion care services in the home so you can take a break, care for yourself, and in turn, become a more patient caregiver for your loved one. To learn more, contact us - we're here to help.