Caregiver overload is a state of stress and exhaustion, both physical and psychological, that significantly affects the caregiver’s daily life, diminishing his or her quality of life and harming him or her on a personal, family, social and work level.
In psychology, a caregiver is understood as a person dedicated to attend to the needs of another person and to take care of him/her since, due to medical issues, he/she is dependent.
Most cases of caregiver overload are people who have been exposed for a long time to a stressful life situation of great intensity. Faced with a stressful situation, the human body prepares itself to cope with the situation and therefore the person has strength. If this situation persists, there comes a time when a “depletion” of the defenses at the psychosomatic level can occur, entering the phase of exhaustion. This is known as caregiver overload.
Caregiver overload: symptoms
The symptoms that a caregiver presents when faced with an overload situation are:
- Exhaustion or decreased energy
- Depression, apathy, listlessness and/or frequent crying
- Irritability and/or mood swings
- Nervousness and/or agitation
- Sleep difficulties
- Decreased social activities, social isolation
- Deficits in attention, concentration and memory
- Weight gain or loss
When these symptoms occur, it is advisable to consult a psychological professional, preferably an expert in stress. The first step is to identify the symptoms, recognize the difficulties, understand what is happening and why it has occurred, in order to analyze the behavior and assess possible solutions.
It is essential to know and train emotional management tools and learn strategies to devise a plan of action and carry it out.
Consequences of caregiver overload
The repercussions of caregiver overload have physical and mental consequences on the caregiver. From mild problems such as anxiety or psychosomatic disorders to more serious problems that have repercussions on the economic, labor and social situation.
It is important to emphasize that caregiver overload can have repercussions on the care that the caregiver provides to the patient, affecting the latter directly, as situations of neglect of care can occur, leading to mistreatment and abuse of the dependent person.
Advice for the caregiver
- Asking for help is not a symptom of weakness, but the opposite. It is not always possible to do everything alone.
- It is necessary to dedicate time every day.
- To be able to take care, you must first take care of yourself.
- Eat a balanced diet and try to disturb sleep as little as possible.
- Exercise 3 days a week and leave the house every day for a walk.
- Delegate tasks to family and friends, it is impossible for one person to carry all the weight.
- Dedicate time to leisure.
- Do not overprotect the person being cared for.
- If there are doubts about the care, you should ask the health personnel.
- If the caregiver frequently experiences intense negative emotions, make an appointment with a psychologist to learn emotional management strategies.