The variety of needs burn patients have are exceptionally challenging for caregivers. Caregivers must deal with issues such as helping patients with agonizing pain, addressing fears and emotional issues, and handling oftentimes painful and labor intensive medical procedures. It is vitally important to remember to take care of your own needs; be sure to look into family caretaker support options, such as support groups or programs, for help.
What are the signs of caregiver stress and burnout?
Not only does dealing with high levels of stress affect your ability to provide care, it also puts your own health and well-being at risk. Lack of sleep, not eating right, trying to do too much, stressing about things you cannot change, and not seeking out emotional support for yourself while dealing with the stresses of caring for someone will take its toll on you.
“Once you burn out, caregiving is no longer a healthy option for either you or the person you’re caring for. So it’s important to watch for the warning signs of caregiver burnout and take action right away when you recognize the problem,” cautions HelpGuide.org. Below are some of the signs that your stress levels are reaching burnout level:
- You feel depressed and excessively anxious.
- You have emotional outbursts, e.g., crying, anger, etc.
- You are feeling tired and worn out, and yet have problems sleeping.
- You overreact to trivialities and are impatient with your loved one.
- You are developing health issues.
- You feel like you cannot relax.
- You have let yourself and your needs go.
- You feel like your life revolves around caregiving and it does not feel rewarding to you.
How can I cope with the stressors of caring for a burn victim?
Lt. Col. Maria Serio-Melvin is a critical care nurse specialist at a burn Intensive Care Unit. She explained to NPR that at her medical center, the staff is acutely aware of what they call “compassion fatigue,” the weariness and stress caregivers sometimes experience. They have created a “respite room” at the facility for staff to temporarily escape to if need be.
When Lt. Col. Melvin feels overwhelmed with sadness or burdened with the emotional aspects of her job, talking about it to her husband and getting things off her chest helps immensely.
“You just need to tell a story about how someone got burned in your day – and all he needed to do was listen. He didn’t have to say a word, he just needed to listen, and I felt so much better,” she shared.
You can help cope with the stress of helping a loved one or a patient with a burn injury by not losing sight of your own needs. Here are some tips to help:
- Tend to your own physical needs (sleep, rest, nutrition, exercise, etc.)
- Take time off. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of solitude daily. Respite is essential.
- Ask trusted family or friends for help.
- Accept that which you cannot change and focus on the silver lining.
- Join a caregiver support group.
Where can I find caregiver support services?
Ask a member of the burn care team where you might find local caregiver support services. They will be able to help you connect with support groups and respite services.
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