Dementia caregivers are facing burnout, here’s how it can be prevented

Being the sole caregiver of a dependent loved one, particularly of someone who has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, can cause constant strain. Taking care of someone full-time affects every aspect of your life as a caregiver, including your own health and wellbeing. The more dependent the person becomes on you, the more you are forced to sacrifice your own personal time and needs. Very often caregivers feel that they are expected to be selfless and subsequently put the emotions and needs of the person they are caring for ahead of their own. If this sounds like you, remember that it is completely normal to think this way but that doesn’t mean it’s right or how it should be.

In fact, caring for someone who has dementia puts caregivers at a much higher risk of developing burnout or compassion fatigue due to the extremely taxing nature of the disease. People living with dementia can sometimes become confused or anxious enough to physically threaten their caregivers. Dementia also affects the mental wellbeing and people with dementia often become depressed, and unfortunately caregivers are not always adequately equipped to deal with it. The hardest part is watching your loved one’s mental state decline and witnessing them slowly forget who they and you are.

Dementia caregivers don’t often take time off for themselves to unwind and recuperate, which means they tend to care for long stretches of time without respite. This has serious health implications, as more and more dementia caregivers are facing burnout by not taking precautions and recognising the signs early enough.

What are the signs of burnout in caregivers?

A caregiver with burnout is overwhelmed and is physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted from the stress and burden of caring for their loved one. They may feel alone, unsupported, or unappreciated. If you, or someone you know, cares for someone with dementia, look out for these burnout signs:

  1. Emotional exhaustion
  2. Anxiety or depression
  3. Physical exhaustion
  4. Trouble sleeping
  5. Losing interest in things they once enjoyed
  6. Depersonalisation (feeling like they’re observing their lives from outside their body).
  7. Irritability and/or unexplained rage
  8. Neglecting their own health and wellness
  9. Isolating themselves emotionally and physically
  10. Medical problems like headaches, bad nutrition, illness, etc.

5 ways to prevent caregiver burnout

As prevalent as burnout is in those who care for people with dementia, it is preventable and treatable. The first step is to practise self-awareness to recognise any changes in behaviour, work, or life outside of caring. Here are 5 ways to prevent burnout:

1. Go on holiday
No one deserves a holiday quite like a caregiver. Taking care of your loved one and witnessing their cognitive decline can be emotionally draining and physically exhausting. A holiday affords you the time to recoup and rejuvenate.

2. Join support groups
Caregivers often face similar problems and while you might think you are alone in things, we need you to understand that you’re not. There are other dementia caregivers and families also experiencing the same things, and when you collectively discuss things like guilt, feeling burdened, etc., it will definitely feel like a weight has been lifted.

3. Seek personal therapy

Looking after your mental health is really important. Consider seeing a therapist to help process these feelings and implement strategies of self-care to prevent burnout from happening again.

4. Be mindful of practicing self-care

Practise self-care by following a balanced and nutritious diet, regularly exercising, and getting enough sleep. Find other things that you enjoy doing, whether it’s meditation, taking an art class, or going for a massage. Find something that makes you happy and gives you a break from caregiving.

5. Consider respite care
Many caregivers prolong taking a break due to their own unrealistic expectations of themselves or their immense guilt at leaving the care of their loved one to someone else. Unfortunately, many caregivers are not even aware that dementia day care is as an option. Leaving your loved one in the trusted hands of dementia care experts will give you peace of mind that they are being well looked after whilst you are away.

Day care/Holiday care is key in preventing Compassion Fatigue

Short term dementia day care or holiday care can play a vital part in preventing caregiver burnout. Livewell Villages offers dementia care during the day, overnight or prolonged periods when a caregiver needs to take some time off. This enables caregivers to lead more balanced lives, practice self-care, and reduce stress.

What Livewell Villages offer:

  • Specialised dementia and Alzheimer’s care with a highly skilled team.
  • Daily activities and exercise programs to promote cognitive stimulation
  • Nutritious meals and snacks prepared by nutritional experts.
  • Medical and health services if required.
  • Support services for people with dementia and their families.
  • The perfect solution for caregivers with daytime commitments.

If you would like to take a much deserved break over the festive season and would like to find out more about our daycare and overnight care options, please feel free to contact us.

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Arrive as family, live with dignity and purpose.

Since 2011, the Livewell Group has been at the forefront of dementia and Alzheimer’s care in South Africa. We are motivated by a personal and heartfelt concern for the dignity and care of our elders and our efforts continue to be encouraged by the strong market need for specialised individual care.

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