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Managing Caregiver Burden

Tactics for coping with caregiver stress and burnout

Working in healthcare can be extremely taxing both physically and mentally. The heart of the job lies in caring for others, and the pressure to fulfil this duty can become hard to manage.

As much as it is essential to provide sufficient care to patients, it should also be recognised that it is just as important to prioritise taking your wellbeing into account as a healthcare worker.

Ultimately, you cannot look after others without looking after yourself first. Doing so simply burns the candle at both ends, and in the long run is inevitably counterproductive.

Caregiver burnout is a common issue, and it is important to create more exposure on the subject.

So - what are the signs?

A lot of the time, the toll that caregiving carries goes unnoticed. Many people assume that it's simply part of the package deal, and something to ‘get on’ with. This could not be farther from the truth.

Recognising the red flags is the first step in battling caregiver burnout. Defining the affliction is difficult as it can come in various shapes and forms, but majoritively, the following characteristics are present:

- Emotional exhaustion

- Physical exhaustion

- Depression

- Anxiety

- Fatigue

- Sleep disturbances

- Irritability

- Weight/ Appetite changes

Why does this happen?

There are various causes for suffering with caregiver burnout. Here are a few:

1. Emotional attachment

The desire to provide care for others is one of the sole purposes in fulfilling a job in healthcare, but alongside this emotional attachment comes hand in hand. This is an example of one of the many causes for caregiver burnout.

Whilst it is natural to care deeply for your patients, a certain line needs to be drawn when it comes to your personal wellbeing. Finding balance is a difficult task, but a necessary one. It is easy to become too invested in your patient’s lives – and although it’s true that empathy and compassion are positive traits, becoming too absorbed comes at an emotional price.

2. Grief

A further huge component that comes to play is grief. This is both the most inevitable and most difficult cost of caregiving. In the majority of roles within healthcare, dealing with the loss of a patient’s life is unfortunately unavoidable.

Grief is one of the most difficult parts of life, and it is no easier when it comes to losing patients. Suffering with the loss of a patient can come as a huge blow, and if not faced, will wear away at you.

3. Lack of control

Despite all the knowledge that we now have in healthcare, an unknowing of whether treatment will always work remains. There is never an 100% assurance of success, and this can cause a huge degree of anxiety and stress. This deficit of control can be extremely difficult to deal with, and it is easy to slip into unhealthy coping mechanisms when confronted with this lack of grip.

4. Long-term stress

An additional cause of burnout is long-term stress in an extremely demanding job. As humans, we all have a limit on how much we can physically take. Working in healthcare is a high-demand profession with tensions chronically high. Naturally, this stress can whittle away at you over time, eventually leading to a breaking point.

How can you remedy burnout?

1. Take a break!

As simple as it might sound, sometimes the answer for curing burnout is merely taking a break. When you feel that you are running low on battery, taking a deserved breather can be a lifesaver. Whether your definition of a break is a weekend away, or more simply a weekend relaxing at home, giving yourself the opportunity to transport your mind elsewhere can help to lift the weight off your shoulders.

2. Share the burden

On some occasions, there comes a time when it is necessary to seek help from others. There is no shame in needing help to manage. It is utterly acceptable, and even expected, to require support. Seeking guidance from professionals can be a saving grace in handling the weight of caregiving. It is important to remain open-minded and banish any hints of stubbornness. By sourcing an outside perspective, you might just find that you will be given coping mechanisms and tools that could change your life.

3. Find and outlet

Each person’s version of an ‘outlet’ looks different. Hobbies such as exercise, medication, travelling, reading, gardening, or crafting are all examples of what this could look like. Ultimately, the purpose is as follows – to find something you enjoy that is a healthy way to burn off steam and serve as a stress-reliever.

4. Look after the mind & body

At the end of the day, without our health we have nothing. As they say, health is wealth. Without taking care to maintain your wellbeing, there is a significantly higher chance of reaching burnout. By ensuring to eat good quality foods, exercise regularly and take the time to attend to your mental health, it is far more likely that you will have the ability to cope with the pressures of not only work, but also life in general.

Ultimately, everyone is different. When implementing techniques to aid burnout it is important to remember this. Not everyone will react in the same way, and if you find yourself stressed and fretting that “Nothing is working!” – remember that we are all individual. What works for one might not work for the other.

Nevertheless, it is vital to ensure that as a healthcare worker, you are putting your best foot forward to look after yourself. By doing so, you will not only be the best version of yourself, but you will also be able to provide the best quality care to your patients.



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