Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Caregiver Burnout Series: Part One: Recognizing the Signs of Burnout

The Caregiver is essential to the smooth operation of Home Dialysis. Because the role of the Caregiver is so important -- and because Caregivers can sometimes feel isolated or "lost in the shuffle" of seemingly larger issues, I am starting a four-part post on Caregiver Burnout. The main themes are as follows:

Part One:         Recognizing Signs of Burnout
Part Two:        How is Burnout Different from Depression?
Part Three:     Treating Depression
Part Four:       Supporting the Caregiver

Recognizing Signs of Burnout

The Caregiver in Home Dialysis may experience a variety of emotions. He/she may be reeling from the diagnosis of the partner's illness, with all the uncertainty that entails. There are more demands on the Caregiver's time. Family responsibilities may be unevenly divided, and the day-to-day responsibilities don't stop, even in the face of ESRD!

The Caregiver may find himself/herself consumed with financial worries. The partner's ESRD may have resulted in major changes in a family's income. And anyone who has tried to untangle the intricacies of insurance or medicare knows how difficult that can be.

The Caregiver may grieve for simpler times gone by. There's a loss of spontaneity in day-to-day life. A Caregiver may grieve for the life he or she had imagined; surely it didn't include ESRD!

It's natural for Caregivers to have frustrations and bad days. But sometimes, it goes beyond that, and the Caregiver is at risk for Burnout.

Burnout feels like you can't possibly continue for another day -- you're too worn down and bone tired. This can be uncomfortable and dangerous for the patient and the Caregiver. Our own health can suffer and we make more mistakes.

Be on the lookout for these warning signs:

1.     Fatigue
2.     Irritability
3.     Persistent crying
4.     Inattention to usual grooming
5.     Avoidance of exercise
6.     Inattention to the Caregiver's own health
7.     Poor concentration; difficulty reading
8.     Low energy level
9.     Sleep disturbances
10.   Weight gain or loss without trying
11.   Loss of interest in usual activities
12.   Decreased libido
13.   The sense that nothing will ever get better
14.   Helplessness and/or hopelessness
15.   Excessive worry
15.   Feelings of guilt
16.   Hypervigilence.

These symptoms are important to watch for. If you see these symptoms lingering in yourself, get some help from your Primary Care Health Professional or your Kidney Center Social Worker.

If you've noticed that these symptoms of Burnout resemble the symptoms of Depression, you're correct.

Tomorrow, we will look at "What is the Difference Between Burnout and Depression?"

Hopefully, by knowing what to watch for in ourselves and in others, we can nip problems in the bud before they become major problems.
Take care. Linda Gromko, MD

1 comment:

  1. I had been taking care of our mother for the past 4years. one of 4 sibblings. my mother for the past few years has been taking care of her three grand children. I, had been a teenage mother am now pushing into my forties, have children that are out on their own and not a grand mother, yet! I was single and wanted the life that i shorted or should say; put on hold
    for my children and married life.
    my mother needed me to be heears eyes and legs, without question or conscern of mine.... i was not to question her jugdgement...of family members abuse of her kindness, bankbook,household,food and abuse of myself. My own children urged me to leave. After three years i have finally left,to my finacial life in ruins for not being able to work for taking care of my parent. Maybe in a few months i will be able to say that i did it for a higher purpose, but at this present time i feel a lot of anger, and frustration with other family members.
    I know That they may have looked to me because i worked in that field, but i feel they never considered that my life was important too. That inconsideration, makes me detetach from the family and makes me want to be as far awa from them as possible.
    I still care and love my mother, but without some kind of family support thru social services, or somekind of community outreach,this burnout is something terrible for this next generation to deal with.