When you’re caring for a loved one, it’s easy to lose sight of your own needs. As a caregiver, you’re the “healthy one,” which can lead you—and those around you—to take your health for granted. But caregiver overload is a serious concern, with very real repercussions. It’s important to recognize the signs and take the steps you need to stay healthy. Be on the lookout for the following red flags, which can clue you into the fact that it may be time to slow down or ask for some help.
We all have days when we’re too tired to see friends, or to interact much with our family. But when these “off days” become the norm, it can be a sign that caregiver overload is setting in, and it can put us on the path to other negative behaviors. Take a look at your calendar. Have you been putting off making plans, or regularly canceling the ones you have made? If it feels like you haven’t seen anyone other than the one you’ve been caring for, and their doctors and nurses, take note.
Lack of Interest in Hobbies
It’s vital that you take time to unwind. But many caregivers find that their old hobbies and interests no longer hold much appeal. Whether it’s reading, running, painting, or just sitting and listening to their favorite music, activities that once brought joy now seem like a hassle more than anything else.
Lack of Energy
When your responsibilities as a caretaker grow beyond your capacity to handle them, there doesn’t seem to be a moment—morning, noon, or night—when you’re not ready to fall asleep. And even a long night in bed and a strong cup of coffee fail to do the trick.
Changes in Diet and Sleep
Insomnia, irregular sleep patterns, lack of appetite, overeating, unintended weight loss or weight gain—all of these are signs that something in your life is off. Like the signs described above, they go beyond “bad days” and represent not a deviation from the norm, but the establishment of a new, less healthy “normal.”
Do you find yourself sick pretty much all the time, moving from one bug to the next and catching whatever’s going around? That’s a sure sign that you’re run down, and that your system is too tired to fight back. On the subject of health, it’s also important to be on the lookout for reliance on unhealthy habits, such as drinking or smoking, in an attempt to unwind or manage stress..
Unhappiness and Depression
Much like the issues described above, one bad day doesn’t typically signal that something is amiss. But when your bad mood just becomes your mood, it’s time to take notice. Feelings of unhappiness manifest differently for different people. Some folks are irritable, and quick to snapping at others over minor inconveniences and annoyances. Others feel helpless in the face of their situation, and hopeless that things will get better. In some cases, these feelings can worsen into depression. Some caregivers consider suicide. If you’re having these thoughts, it’s vital that you reach out for support.
Being a caregiver is no easy task. It may seem like you’re on an island, alone with your worries and responsibilities, with no one to turn to. And if these hopeless feelings have set in, it can be hard to see past them. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to join a caregiver support group, ideally right when you assume the responsibility of being a caretaker. Even if you miss the signs of caregiver overload in yourself, you’ll be someplace where others can recognize them, and can offer advice, support, or even just understanding when you need it most.
Asking for help is often one of the most difficult tasks for a caregiver. But placing your loved one in an assisted living community can help restore a sense of happiness and health, for both of you. Here at the Lexington Square senior living community, we’ve helped many families in the Chicago area make this transition, and we’re happy to answer any questions you have about assisted living.