Frequent sighs from caregivers are not a good sign. Sighing is a sign of burnout. It is like a cry that is too tired to be a normal cry. I have had caregiver burnout and if you are a caregiver, you have probably experienced it at some level. Being responsible for someone else’s needs hour after hour is draining no matter what the rewards, and takes energy from you. Even though you love the person and love what you are doing it can wear you down.
Taking care of someone who is very ill or has dementia is particularly challenging because the people who need you tend to decline and their needs grow. It can be overwhelming when you pause to think about the burgeoning demands on you. Very often, caregivers have other responsibilities in addition to the person who needs care. A job. Children. A significant other. It is important to recognize the beginning of burnout and help yourself to maintain your health and still fill all of the roles in your life.
When you begin to experience burnout, it does not mean you are a bad caregiver. It means you have been working too hard and giving too much of yourself. So what do you do? Take a break to any degree you can. Maybe you cannot get away for a week but perhaps you can take a walk around the block every day. Go to a movie. Read a few chapters of a pleasant book. Play with a dog. Meditate. Start planning a vacation even if you don’t know when you can take it. The important thing is to provide yourself with a break from your responsibilities. Articles abound on the importance of caring for yourself but it can be difficult to get help with your tasks so you can get some relief. If you have no assistance then do one of the above suggestions or something similar. The laundry can wait for ten minutes while you take care of you.
You cannot remain in the “on” position at all times. You have to take care of yourself and get your perspective back. You are a hero; treat yourself like a hero.