According to research from AARP, 20% of the U.S. population is considered a caregiver. And while some of those caregivers are paid professionals, a significant portion are spouses caring for their partner. As wonderful as it can be to care for someone you love, taking on the role of a caregiver can be overwhelming and exhausting, leading to what is known as spousal caregiver burnout.
What Is Spousal Caregiver Burnout?
Spousal caregiver burnout occurs when the demands and stress of caregiving become too much to handle, leading to physical, emotional, and social exhaustion. A whopping 66% of spousal caregivers have no help whatsoever – paid or unpaid, so it can be easy to become overwhelmed. It’s important, however, to recognize the signs of burnout to avoid long-term adverse effects on yourself and your loved one.
Signs & Symptoms of Spousal Caregiver Burnout
Spousal caregiver burnout can present itself across multiple areas, including social, emotional, and physical symptoms.
Social Impacts of Spousal Caregiver Burnout
When you become a spousal caregiver, your marriage dynamic may change, and your social life may suffer. You might find yourself unable to participate in activities with friends or have time for hobbies, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Because the caregiver is typically the person who will need to make plans with friends or attend social events, it can add to their already full plate. This can lead to an overall lack of interest in social activities and reduced communication with people you once were very close with. Additionally, the stress of caregiving can lead to tension in relationships with family and friends.
If you’re noticing these signs, it may be time to reach out for help or take a break from caregiving responsibilities:
- Isolation from friends and family
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities you once enjoyed
- Decreased satisfaction with relationships
Emotional Impacts of Spousal Caregiver Burnout
Emotionally, burnout can manifest as increased feelings of anger and frustration, resentment towards the person you are caring for, or even guilt. These intense emotions can lead to a decrease in overall well-being and have damaging effects on your mental health. And if you live with the person you’re caring for, you may feel more lonely despite being near them.
If you find yourself experiencing any of the following, it’s essential to pause and reassess your caregiving situation:
- Increased feelings of anger or frustration
- Resentment towards your loved one for their illness or needs
- Feelings of guilt surrounding your caregiving abilities
- Depression or anxiety
- Decreased satisfaction with life
Physical Impacts of Spousal Caregiver Burnout
As a spousal caregiver, your physical health may also suffer. In fact, 1 in 3 caregivers says caring for their spouse has worsened their own health, likely because caregiving can be physically demanding. And the added stress can lead to unhealthy habits like neglecting exercise and proper nutrition.
If you notice any of these physical warning signs, you should seek help and take time to care for yourself:
- Neglecting self-care or healthy habits
- Increased physical pain or tension
- Frequent sickness or illness
- Weight gain or loss
- Poor sleeping habits
- Changes in blood pressure
- Regular headaches
How to Overcome Spousal Caregiver Burnout
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of spousal caregiver burnout is the first step, but knowing how to overcome it is also important.
First and foremost, seeking help is vital. You might try contacting family or friends for support, hiring outside help with caregiving tasks, or even seeking professional therapy or counseling.
Additionally, finding ways to prioritize self-care and manage stress can positively impact your emotional and physical well-being. You could learn relaxation techniques, make time for hobbies or activities you enjoy, and, of course, find ways to stay active and eat healthy.
Taking steps toward overcoming spousal caregiver burnout will benefit both you and the person you are caring for. Remember to take care of yourself and seek help when needed. You deserve it (and so does your spouse!).
Lighthouse is Here to Help You
If you’re feeling overwhelmed as a spousal caregiver, it may be time to consider outside help. At Lighthouse, your spouse will have full access to professional caregiving staff who can help with tasks like bathing, dressing, and medication management. This can give you time and space to focus on your own well-being and take a break from the constant stress of caregiving.
Contact us today to learn more about us or to take a tour.