Many elderly people who suffer from chronic illnesses require constant care from their family members. If caregivers stretch themselves too far in the care-giving roles and ignore their own needs, both mental and physical distress may result. A mental status called "Burnout" would emerge if the caregivers could not manage their stress properly.
Symptoms of "Burnout"
- Physical : Feeling fatigue and sick, and ignoring time for taking rest and meals.
- Cognitive : Frustrated, negative, passive and feeling hopeless.
- Emotional : Depressed and agitated.
- Interpersonal : Socially isolated, being hostile and resentful.
Stress reactions frequently encountered by the caregivers
- Disturbed normal life pattern : No time for leisure and neglect one's own needs.
- Self-blaming : Feeling responsible for the patient's condition. Feeling sense of helplessness and guilt.
- Physical and psychological fatigue : With chronic care-giving tasks, one might become emotionally distressed, anxious, frustrated, depressed and agitated, often resulting in anger and resentment towards family members and patient, which may negatively affect the relationship.
Sources of care-giver stress
- Fear for death and the aging process.
- Feeling sad and blaming oneself for not providing adequate care to the patient especially if the patient's condition shows no improvement or deteriorates.
- Inadequate knowledge and skills in care-giving tasks.
- Over-dependence of the patient on the caregiver; or the patient may be inconsiderate or have self-pity tendency.
- Family members or friends may not be willing to share the care-giving tasks and responsibilities.
- Heavy financial burden due to long-term medical expense.
- Lack of social support and resources.
Suggestions in managing stress
- Understand the course and psychological reactions of the illness. Learn the relevant care-giving skills, so as to strengthen and enhance confidence and adaptability.
- Establish an realistic expectation for the patient's condition.
- Encourage the patient to do tasks within their ability in order to sustain their self-care ability and independence.
- At times of anger and frustration, avoid further argument with the patient and let yourself calm down or leave the site. Analyze the situation objectively and figure out the reason of being angry and the solution.
- Simplify the caring procedure and consolidate the daily routine.
- Negotiate with other family members in sharing the care-giving tasks
- Reserve time for leisure and maintain social life for yourself
- Recognize and maintain a positive attitude towards your effort and contribution to the care-giving tasks.
- Ensure adequate sleep and a healthy and balanced diet.
- Learn relaxation skills (For example, deep breathing technique and muscular relaxation skill).
- Seek appropriate social resources to alleviate burden.
- Avoid using inappropriate ways for stress management - avoidance, drug and alcohol abuse.