It’s a phrase that I hear quite a lot, and after a weekend where I really felt burnt out. I thought I’d look at the question, what does caregiver burnout look like? First of all, I’ve never viewed myself as a carer. I’m just a dad looking after his kids, the way any good dad would. It is safe to say I feel burnt out at times, but what do people mean when they say that? How do you know if you or someone you know is feeling this way?
Answering the question
If you google, what does caregiver burnout look like? The first answer you will see, looks like this.
“A caregiver with burnout has become overwhelmed and is physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted from the stress and burden (I don’t particularly like the word burden, but these aren’t my words) of caring for their loved one. They may feel alone, unsupported, or unappreciated. They often haven’t been taking good care of themselves and may be depressed.
I have made all the important words bold, these are the things you need to look out for. Whether it’s for yourself, because if you like me, you don’t notice the signs until they are on top of you. Until they have become a problem, and as with anything it is better to work on preventing it happening. Than to react one it has happened. Or if you know someone who is a caregiver, a family member or friend. Then look out for these signs for them. Most caregivers I’ve come across rarely ask for help, but I assure you they probably need it. Even if it’s just checking in on them for a chat, you can make a big difference to how they are feeling.
Not taking care of yourself and depression
I am diagnosed with depression, and my battles with the condition date back long before the kids arrived on the scene. There have been some difficult times, especially with Jack when his behaviour have been out of control. When we had massive problems at his old school, where quite frankly he was neglected, you can read about that in more detail by clicking here – “Our Special School Horror Story” so the situation has certainly made my depression more difficult to manage, and my self care can become non existent.
I try to remind myself that to be the best I can for my children, I need to look after myself first. It can be difficult though, there is a lot of stress involved. Different carers have different stress, for us at the moment a lot of the stress revolves around school, and not being completely sure what Jack and Lily’s capability’s will be as they grow up. It’s also about keeping anxiety and meltdowns in check, whilst for others the demands are more towards physical care. No matter what it is, the strain physically, emotionally and mentally takes it’s toll.
The major thing that often affects cares, is the feeling of being alone, unsupported and unappreciated. This happens to varying degrees, in all different directions. I’ve heard stories of people having their families completely turn their back on them, or one of the parents walking out and leaving the other one to do it all alone. Thankfully this hasn’t happened to us. I don’t know that everyone in our families fully understands the situation we are in, it’s difficult too unless you’ve experienced it yourself. They have all stuck around and been supportive though.
We haven’t had any issues of people being openly “jealous”, and complain we get money just to stay at home. Which I know is something that happens a lot. As for unappreciated, the £67 a week carers allowance we get, doesn’t scratch the surface of what it would cost if the people we cared for we’re taken into care. Depending on the needs of person it can be thousands of pounds a day!
The current Covid-19 pandemic has shown just how unappreciated carers are. Suddenly all the services stop, leaving us to care 24/7, and we are pretty much the only group of people not being offered an extra help. Once again if you know a caregiver, show them a bit of appreciation, and support them if you can. It could be the little lift that keeps them going.
What all the above boils down to, and what for me really answers the question, what does caregiver burnout look like? Is the feeling of being over whelmed. This past Saturday I felt completely overwhelmed, I’m not really sure where it came from, but it was a really difficult day. I struggled with everything, and to be honest I spent most of the day doing nothing but be grumpy and snappy with everyone.
Being cheered up by the kids
The only time I cheered up was when Lily got me playing what’s in the box? Thankfully I felt a bit more myself on Sunday, then Jack asked to go out for a walk and pay PokemonGo. Normally it would be a 20-30 minute walk around the block, but Jack was feeling especially adventurous. We went to a small nature reserve near us, and decided to venture as far as we could. Things got interesting when the path was cut of by a stream, which had some broken logs across it as a bridge. There was at least a 1 metre drop down to the other side.
Jack wouldn’t be deterred so we got across and kept going. Eventually the path became completely over grown and we had to turn back, much to Jack’s disappointment. It’s obviously not been used much. Getting back across the stream was a bit more interesting, but we just about managed it. We saw a frog hopping about, which Jack was fascinated with. On the way back, we saw some horses, which Jack also enjoyed.
We had a great time, and it’s the sort of thing I definitely want to do more of. I was tired when we got back, but after a 30 minute rest. I suddenly realised how much better I was feeling. And therein lies the conundrum, the people we care for may well cause us worry and stress. Plus a whole load of other emotions, but they can also be the ones that make us so happy.
Show support for carers
Right now people are showing great support to our NHS staff, carers and key workers. I just hope that when this pandemic is finally over, people don’t forget the importance of all these people. Obviously I’m looking at carers here, people who are often unappreciated and looked down on. Show these people the support they deserve.