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Thoughtful woman sitting at table with cup of teaDo you feel overwhelmed caring for a loved one? Caregiving is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding — and challenging — jobs on the planet. It also can, over time, really take a toll on the family member providing the care. The signs of burnout can vary, but generally speaking, the less serious signs may include: irritability, lack of concentration, sleeplessness and social withdrawal. Some of the more serious signs include anger, anxiety, depression, resentment towards loved ones (the patient and/or other family members who are not helping), health problems and being neglectful of self needs.

While the signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout are important, the cause, prevention and treatment are of equal concern. Caregivers often are so busy caring for others that they tend to neglect their own emotional, physical and spiritual health. The reality is that this isn’t sustainable — you must first take care of yourself to provide good care to someone else. As the saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” That means making time for self-care, friends and family, exercise or hobbies. Seeking and accepting help is another way to curb burnout. The same can be said of education. Caregivers benefit by seeking out information about their loved one’s illnesses or conditions, so they can better anticipate what to expect, reduce feelings of helplessness and enhance their ability to cope with the situation.

It also helps to get a second opinion. It’s possible that the scope of your loved one’s needs falls outside of the scope of your knowledge, skills and training. You also may simply not have the time and energy to take care of your loved one and yourself while having a job, spouse and/or children. A home health provider can help while giving you a break from daily tasks. In other cases, quality long-term care is a much better solution. Is it time to ask for help? Only you know the answer to that question.