Recently categorized as a mental illness, burnout is extreme stress caused by emotional and physical exhaustion. People with high-stress jobs are particularly at risk for suffering from burnout—especially healthcare professionals like caregivers.
Healthcare has a high rate of burnout, and caregivers are highly susceptible. Caring for adults with intellectual disabilities has unique challenges, and the job not only requires dedication and patience but is often an around-the-clock profession.
Learn how to avoid burnout when caring for adults with IDD so you can take better care of your patients and yourself.
Recognizing the Signs
Like other illnesses, burnout develops over time. You might find yourself feeling exhausted, irritable, and getting sick more often for weeks or months. Feeling down both mentally and physically is usually the beginning of burnout; here are other signs that you are overly stressed:
- Excessive ambition
- Neglecting your own needs like sleep and self-care
- Irritation or anger at your patient
- Feeling detached from your life
- Depression and feelings of hopelessness
- Mental or physical breakdown
Even though caregiving is an arduous job, you can prevent burnout. Of course, there will still be stress with your job, but developing coping skills to handle that stress can help you be healthier and happier. Here are ways to prevent caretaker burnout:
- Exercise Regularly — Taking time to fit in a workout will positively affect your physical and mental health. Even short activities like taking a walk are beneficial.
- Sleep — Get as much rest as you need—even if that means napping. Our mental and physical abilities are severely diminished when we lack the proper amount of sleep.
- Eat Well — Even though you might be too busy to prepare balanced meals, try to make healthier diet decisions to keep both your energy levels and immune system boosted. Meal prepping for the week and meal subscription services can be time-saving options.
- Ask for Help— Don’t be afraid to ask for help! You’re not a superhero, and everyone needs a break. So take time off, or if you’re a caretaker for a loved one, ask another family member or friend to step in for a bit. There are also support groups for loved ones caring for a family member with a disability.
Knowing how to avoid burnout when caring for adults with IDD is vital when supporting adults with IDD. Remember—you can only take care of them if you first take care of yourself.