At some point, roughly 1 in 3 American adults will serve as caregivers for another family member, usually an aging parent. Being a caregiver is highly rewarding, but as time progresses the added responsibilities can be tiring. When a caregiver gets worn down, they can experience physical and mental fatigue, and later health and relationship problems.

At times, caregiver fatigue may ultimately rob the provider of their happiness and even sense of self-worth. In an effort to ensure that doesn’t happen, here are some pick-me-up tips from caregiving experts.

Signs of a Fatigued Caregiver

One reason that a caregiver begins to feel fatigued is simply the duration of care, which can last for months or even years. Another common occurrence, especially when the one receiving the care is elderly, is that their condition will deteriorate right before the caregiver’s eyes. Many times the caregiver begins to feel powerless to stop their family member’s declining health, and they compensate for that helpless feeling by committing more time and energy to the task.

Caregiver fatigue is indicated by these clinical signs:

  • Anxiety & depression
  • Mental & physical fatigue
  • Sleep loss
  • Irritability & angry outbursts; sometimes directed towards the care recipient
  • Feeling worried or overwhelmed
  • Rapid weight loss or gain
  • Abuse of alcohol and/or drugs, including prescription medications
  • Developing their own physical problems like frequent headaches or body pain
  • Becoming disinterested in relationships & activities they previously enjoyed

Once caregiving exhaustion moves to full-blown burnout, the caregiver may experience serious health issues themselves, with some even requiring medical attention.

Ways for Caregivers to Stay Fresh & Energized

Even those who serve others deserve a break now-and-then, and you are no exception. When taking care of a loved one, especially an aging parent, you want them to know that you are providing assistance because you love them. When fatigue sets in, you may find yourself frustrated with your loved one and those thoughts may be expressed from time-to-time. And that can cause hurt feelings. To help prevent burnout, here are some ideas on better taking care of yourself when you feel exhausted:

  • Use caregiver resources for your loved one to give you a break, such as meal delivery, housekeeping or transportation services.
  • Interact with other caregivers in your area to build friendships, problem solve and share information and challenges.
  • Set attainable caregiving goals by breaking up your responsibilities into doable portions. Prioritize the tasks so that they don’t overwhelm you. It’s also okay to say “no” to your loved one once in a while.
  • Stay connected with family and friends while asking them for help when needed. Take a walk with them, share a meal or just grab some coffee so that you don’t lose touch with those relationships.
  • Set your own personal health goals to keep your mind and body sharp and re-charged. For example, reduce stress by exercising. Don’t abuse alcohol or prescription meds. A lack of sleep is a big problem for caregivers, so make sure you get 7 to 8 hours per day.
  • Concentrate on caregiving services that you can provide, and get assistance for other ones that may not be your strong suits.
  • Reward yourself for your efforts with a massage, dinner, clothing purchase or weekend trip. Maintain a log detailing how your nurturing efforts are benefitting the recipient.
  • Don’t hesitate speaking up when you need help from other caregivers. Those can include family members, friends, church volunteers or paid respite caregivers.

The bottom line is this: If you get run down you cannot provide the level of care that your loved one deserves. And, you may be jeopardizing your health in the process.

Professional Respite Caregivers are Available

When you need a pick-me-up, one of the options available is to hire a professional respite caregiver to step in. You may need someone once or twice a week, for example, or even for a week at a time. Professional homecare and home health agencies provide respite caregiving services for handicapped, elderly and ill individuals when their regular caregiver needs a break. They can assist you and your loved one by providing everything from general housekeeping services up to more involved medical care like therapy, changing bandages and administering medication.

To learn more about respite homecare services in your area and how they help prevent caregiver burnout visit now.