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Mental Health Awareness Month And Caregivers

If you live with or are a caregiver for anyone suffering with mental health issues, you may know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I find it very hopeful that as a society we are becoming more aware of and compassionate for those suffering with mental health issues. More and more people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and our elders are experiencing a variety of age-related dementias. These conditions, along with the more classic cases of mental illnesses such as mood disorders, severe depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and others are being taken more seriously by our medical professionals so that we can offer more compassion and care.

The Overlooked Healthcare Needs Of Unpaid Caregivers

I am focusing on the mental health needs of caregivers this month. This is an overlooked group made up of primarily unpaid family members who often stretch themselves beyond emotional, physical and spiritual exhaustion. Caregivers give so much of themselves as they tend to the needs of others that they often find themselves in a state of burnout. They are so giving that they can’t tell when their own health is at risk until they’ve hit the wall, so to speak.

Watching For Caregiver Burnout

Many unpaid family member caregivers are also wearing a variety of hats. Some have fulltime jobs, have other family members to tend to, and some travel great distances to provide care for their loved ones. According to the Cleveland Clinic website, caregiver burnout can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  1. The delicate balancing act of playing the role of caregiver along with that of spouse, child, or friend.
  2. The unrealistic belief that they can make their loved one better.
  3. Many things being out of their control, including resources, money, and skills.
  4. Placing too high of demands on themselves and feeling that they are solely responsible to be the caregiver.
  5. Inability to recognize that they are reaching burnout levels and potentially becoming sick due to their inability to function.

Recognize the Signs of Caregiver Burnout

If you are a family member providing care to a loved one, you must remember that caregiving can deplete your emotional and physical energy. Whether you are the sole caregiver or are sharing the role with other family members it’s important to acknowledge there’s a delicate balance required when trying to stay on top of someone else’s life and well-being, while ensuring your own doesn’t suffer. Depending on the condition of your loved one, caregiving can continue for days, months and even years. Continued stress can lead to burnout. It’s important to learn some of the common burnout signs. If you know a caregiver or are one yourself, familiarize yourself with some of the most common signs which the Mayo Clinic lists as follows:

  • Feeling overwhelmed or constantly worried
  • Feeling tired often
  • Getting too much sleep or not enough sleep
  • Gaining or losing weight
  • Becoming easily irritated or angry
  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Feeling sad
  • Having frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications.

Caregivers Need Care Too

If you know a caregiver, perhaps you could reach out and do something nice for them. Maybe treat them to a nice lunch or have a visit over a cup of tea or coffee. Maybe invite them out for a walk. Our caregivers provide millions of dollars of care that otherwise would be a huge burden on our health care system.

We are moving in the right direction in our awareness of mental health awareness. But for now, I want to emphasize the needs of some of the most overburdened big-hearted people in our world. The caregivers. Please give them some extra TLC this month.


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