How Caregiver Burnout Affects Seniors in America
Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion, as defined by the Cleveland Clinic. Stressed, burned-out caregivers may experience anxiety, depression, and fatigue. This state is often accompanied by a change in attitude toward seniors from positive and caring to negative and uncaring.
Burnout is not a defense for elder abuse or neglect. However, it does have a significant impact on the elder care and nursing home industry.
What Causes Caregiver Burnout?
A number of factors can contribute to caregiver burnout, including the caregiver’s neglect of his or her own physical and emotional health. Other contributing factors may include:
- Unrealistic expectations: Caregivers may expect what they do to have a positive effect on the health and happiness of their patients. In the case of elderly people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, these expectations may be unrealistic.
- Lack of control: Many caregivers in nursing homes and assisted living facilities become frustrated by the lack of money, resources, and staff available for managing the care of elderly residents.
- Unreasonable demands: Nursing home staff and other caregivers may be dealing with unreasonable demands from the facility, their patients, and the residents’ families. A nursing home may be so understaffed that caregivers are unable to provide the care their residents need.
What Are the Signs of Caregiver Burnout?
Burned-out caregivers may exhibit symptoms of stress and depression, including:
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest in activities that were previously enjoyed
- Changes in appetite and/or weight
- Changes in sleep patterns
- More frequent illnesses
- Blue, irritable, hopeless, or helpless feelings
- Physical and emotional exhaustion
- Desire to hurt oneself or the person for whom one is caring
What Resources Should Caregivers Turn to for Burnout?
Caregivers who are experiencing burnout have a number of resources available. These include:
- Caregiver support services: Support groups and programs exist to help burned-out caregivers recharge. They provide an opportunity to find more information, locate additional resources, and meet others dealing with similar issues.
- National organizations: Search online for local chapters of national organizations dedicated to assisting people with specific illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, or Parkinson’s disease. They can provide information and resources to help caregivers cope.
- Agencies on aging: State and local agencies on aging and AARP have information about services available in your area. In New Mexico, you can call the Aging & Long-Term Services Department at (800) 432-2080. Texas has 28 area agencies on aging under Health and Human Services that provide services to help people age 60 and older, as well as their families and caregivers.
What Can Go Wrong When Caregiver Burnout Is Not Addressed?
When burnout is not addressed, caregivers may progress to a stage beyond burnout known as “compassion fatigue.” This is an extreme state of tension and stress that is considered to be a secondary traumatic stress disorder. It can result in feelings of hopelessness, indifference, pessimism, and disinterest in other people’s problems. Compassion fatigue can manifest through actions such as yelling, hitting, or neglecting the senior for whom the caregiver is supposed to be providing care.
Legal Help for Victims of Caregiver Burnout
If your elderly loved one has been a victim of abuse or neglect at the hands of a caregiver experiencing burnout, contact the Sorey Law Firm P.L.L.C. at (903) 212-2822 for dedicated legal representation. Our New Mexico nursing home abuse lawyer has extensive experience successfully advocating for injured seniors.
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