Being the carer of a person with a disability can be very rewarding. They may be your child, your parent or a sibling and they may rely on you entirely. However pressure from yourself, family members or your community to ‘always’ be there may lead to chronic stress and possibly carer burnout.
Being a carer involves stress, this stress may come from:
- Heavier workloads
- Family disharmony
- Household disruption
- Financial pressure
These issues may be long term and not easily solved leading to chronic stress.
Symptoms of carer stress may include:
- Feelings of anxiety or depression
- Feeling run down/tired
- Feeling easily upset
- Increase in drinking, smoking or drug use
- Decrease or increase in appetite
- No interest in usual activities
If stressors are not addressed then carer burn out is likely to occur.
Symptoms of carer burn out can include:
- Illness, colds and flu’s etc
- Inability to relax even though you feel completely exhausted
- Feeling moody and irritable
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
Carer burn out can affect the carer’s ability to not only care for themselves and other family members, but also the person that they are caring for. Unaddressed carer burn out may mean that continuing to be a carer is unhealthy for the carer and the person being cared for.
Ways to avoid carer burn out
Continual care giving without appropriate breaks, such as weekends off or holidays or even a couple of hours to do something nice for yourself is likely to lead to carer burn out.
There are many ways to make sure that you as the carer are taken care of. These may include:
- Using respite care.
Respite care is available through many private and government programs and may provide a break overnight, for a weekend or more.
- Accepting offers of help.
This may be as simple accepting a cooked meal from a neighbour, or allowing a friend to clean your windows for you.
- Letting someone else take control for a while.
Feeling that you are the only one who ‘can do it’ is an added burden so allowing someone else to take the wheel can ease the stress.
- Talk about it.
Talking to someone, whether an empathic friend, counsellor or other professional can allow you to feel heard and supported reducing stress by focusing on how you feel.
- Take time for you.
Have a massage, go to an exercise class, catch up with a friend for coffee the possibilities are endless.
- Seek support.
Joining a support group (in person or on-line) can be a way to spend time with others who know what you are going through. Feeling that your situation is understood by someone else can make you feel less alone and more supported.www.visioncounselling.com.au Published: 17/10/2014 “Care Giver Stress Fact Sheet”, (Women’s Health.gov ), Available:https://www.womenshealth.gov (Accessed: 2014, September 2) Melinda Smith and Gina Kemp (2012).”Care Giver Stress and Burnout”, (Help Guide), Available:https://www.helpguide.org (Accessed: 2014, September 2) Image Reference: Dollar Photo Club