Recently I came across a Whatsapp share where a student of anthropology asks his teacher Margaret Mead about what she considered as the first sign of civilization. To which, she replied that it was a 15000-year-old fractured and healed femur bone found in an archaeological site. According to Mead, the femur helps in supporting the weight of the body and allowing the movements. It takes about 6 weeks of rest for the fractured bone to heal, and it needs someone to take care of the person. In the case of animals, if wounded in this way, it would become the food of a predator as the animal may not be able to move or run. However, in humans, it is an indication that someone has taken care of that person and helped him recover.
Caring for a sick is a noble task, but, sometimes, this task of care-taking could be overwhelming, particularly, if the person who is being cared for is completely dependent on the caregiver for his/her basic needs or is very demanding. Caregivers have very little time for themselves, and, hence, they often experience a condition called as caregivers’ burnout. Here, the caregiver experiences physical, mental and emotional fatigue, and exhaustion. It is associated with a mixture of feelings, such as anger, indifference towards the sick person along with the feeling of guilt for oneself for having these emotions, sense of hopelessness, and depression.
Who Are the Caregivers?
It could be a family member responsible for taking care of the ailing person, such as child, parent, sibling, or spouse, or it could be health care professionals, such as doctors and nurses, who feel themselves responsible for the life and well-being of their patients.
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Why Do Caregivers Experience a Burnout?
Here are some reasons which tell you as to why caregivers experience a burnout.
- Caregivers do various tasks alone, all by themselves, and hence get overwhelmed. A stay-at-home mom/wife taking care of the sick child/parent.
- The sick person is very demanding and completely dependent on the caregiver even for his/her basic tasks.
- They expect too much from themselves in a caregiver’s role.
- They place their personal needs and requirements on the least priority as compared to the care requirements of the sick persons.
- There is a lack of appreciation or may have demanding and criticizing family members.
- The absence of any improvement in the sick person despite giving in their best efforts, particularly in people with a progressive and incurable disease.
- Lack of resources in the form of help, such as medical help or financial help or help in sharing the duties.
Symptoms of Caregivers Burnout:
Initially, symptoms, such as irritability, mood swings, episodes of stress and feeling of being overwhelmed, anxiety, guilt, loss of sleep, loss of appetite, and similar others, may affect you.
This further may progress to weight loss, the feeling of having a lack of energy, a lack of purpose, indifference for self and the sick person, social withdrawal, isolation, and depression. The caregiver may also repeatedly fall sick.
In extreme cases, the person may think of ending one’s life and may cause harm to the sick person too.
How to Overcome the Caregivers’ Burnout?
Here are some helpful tips to overcome the caregivers’ burnout.
- Educate yourself about the disease, for which you are caring for the person. This will help you understand the course of the disease progress and also help to set expectations from yourself and about the recovery of the sick person.
- Join disease support groups. You can find people with similar issues sharing their experiences. You may get someone to share your problems and challenges and get tips and solutions to take care of the sick person.
- Also, join the caregivers’ support group.
- Set your boundaries, and take out time for yourself. Remember, to take care of the sick person, you need to be strong and healthy yourself. And, it means not just physically but mentally strong but also emotionally.
- Do not hesitate to seek help. Divide the work, and ask family members to contribute to the caregiving tasks.
- When you have help, you can also take short breaks to meet your friends, go for a short outing, or head out for a short vacation. Always be in touch with your friends, even if you cannot physically meet them.
- Pursue a hobby while caregiving. This will help you to unwind.
- Practice meditation: This will help you calm down your feeling of anxiety and being overwhelmed.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Make sure you take small naps whenever you get time from your caregiving. Short naps would make you feel refreshed.
- Talk to a therapist/counselor if you are unable to cope up with your feelings of being inadequate in cases of progressive and incurable diseases.
Homeopathy has good medicines for managing the symptoms of caregivers’ burnout. One of the most common homeopathic medicines is Cocculus, which indicated for people being worn out by caretaking. Homeopathic medicines are selected based on the symptoms experienced by the caregiver at that particular time and would differ from patient to patient. For more information on how we can help you with the caregivers’ burnout, you may contact us here (link for a chat with our doctors).
- Written by Dr. Yafta S., Associate doctor to Dr. Rajesh Shah