The Mayo Clinic says that “about 1 in 3 adults in the United States provides care to other adults as informal caregivers.” Adults are not only caring for aging parents but also disabled or ill family members. These caregivers often provide full-time care while working full-time jobs and raising their families.
While providing care and support feels good and rewarding to many people, many do not consider themselves “caregivers” but rather family members who are doing what they need to do to help their loved ones. Without recognizing that they are performing the role of a caregiver, they can miss out on opportunities and education that can provide the support that caregivers benefit from.
When Caregivers Get Burned Out
Caregiver burnout is an actual condition that caregivers experience when they don’t receive the support and self-care they need. Caregiver burnout often results in feelings of anger, depression, anxiety, irritability and sadness. Family caregivers need to understand how to take care of their mental health to continue to provide support to family members in the best way possible.
Tips For Optimal Mental Health Care for Family Caregivers
- Enroll in Respite Care – One of the best and most convenient ways to provide self-care is to work with in-home care to provide respite support. Respite care offers family caregivers to take a break from caregiving so that they can rest, relax and enjoy personal time. This allows caregivers to recharge so that they can perform their typical responsibilities more efficiently. Respite care is a great way to reduce caregiver burnout and to keep full-time caregivers feeling good.
- Recognize Your Limitations – Not everyone experiences caregiver burnout the same way. While some caregivers may feel sad and alone, others might get impulsive and spend money that they usually wouldn’t. People alleviate stress in different ways, so it is an excellent idea for caregivers to identify the signs of approaching burnout. Speaking to a therapist or a doctor can help you find ways to recognize your coping skills before they present a problem.
- Get Support Inside the Family – If possible, enroll help from family and friends who can offer an hour or two of support a day or week. A little extra help can go a long way. Write a list of the things that would help take a bit off your plate and request the help!
- Help Can Look Different – Help doesn’t have to come in the form of someone looking after your loved one. It could be help running errands, cleaning up the house or preparing meals. There are many opportunities to help.
- Federal Family Medical Leave Act - Roughly 60% of caregivers also have work outside of the home. Caregivers can request a leave from work for a period of time under the Federal Family Medical Leave Act and can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for relatives.
Caregiver burnout is a significant problem for caregivers and can be avoided by taking the necessary self-care steps. If you aren’t sure what you can do or what resources are available, talk to your doctor or reach out to a mental health professional who can provide support and resources for you!