Watch and read Pam Goodfriend's interview about stress and caregiver burnout.  Pam is a Psychotherapist who works with seniors, families, and caregivers.

Explain how "Caregiver Burnout" occurs?

Our belief system contributes to creating additional stress for our self.  So, for a caregiver, they already have an idea, based on their belief system, of how thing should be done – how to make toast, what time to show up, when to give a bath, how to turn a patient over, etc.  Whatever it may be, they already have some training and their belief system has been established.

Many times when working with a patient the caregiver will find that the patient has their own set of beliefs.  Accordingly, the caregiver has to deal with adjusting and adapting from their own belief system to that of patient’s.  This occurs in all professions, but the difference is that the patient typically has less ability to exercise patience and accommodate the caregiver, and subsequently they expect 100% attention to help deal with their physical, mental and emotional challenges, because that’s what the caregiver’s job is.  Needless to say, adjusting to a patient’s belief system can be very stressful for a caregiver. 

On top of that, caregivers naturally have external stress outside of work which can then carry over into the workplace.  They may have to drop their kids at school, and pay their bills, and fill their car with gas, all while trying to be on time, plus any number of the many other stress buttons that are built into our society today.  And after all of that, they then walk into a stressful workplace and have to abandon their personal baggage (as if it wasn’t an inherent weight on their shoulders already) and solely serve the needs of the patient.  Plus, in many situations, the patient is ill or sick, which adds another layer of stress, so the caregiver is essentially getting a triple dose of stress. 

Consequently, high levels of stress hinder the caregiver’s ability to sustain a certain level of energy, stamina, patience, physical strength, and even alters their ability to be creative and problem solve.  Unfortunately, these mental, physical, and emotional stressors can wear down a caregiver and lead to what is called “caregiver burnout”.   

Can Alzheimer's Disease Patients contribute to Caregiver Burnout?

Patients with memory impairment can create an additional layer of stress for caregivers and add to caregiver burnout.  How many times a caregiver asks the same question and the patient isn't able to process the information and retain it and make decisions from it, and then the caregiver has to repeat the question over and over again.  That's very hard on a caregiver!

Are there any other factors that can contribute to caregiver stress?

Many caregivers are very worried about performing well at their job.  If a patient has a lot of pain, for example, and the caregiver isn't able to help lift them or move them without adding additional pain then that's also going to skyrocket the stress levels for both of them.   The patient is going to cry, or cry out, and the caregiver is going to be wondering how they can best do their job while also minimizing the pain.  The stress level is going to be even higher for caregivers who naturally have a great deal of empathy and will begin to question their ability to perform at  a high level because they are witnessing their patient in pain.

To learn more about what can be done to alleviate and minimize stress, please watch and read Pam's Interview on Stress Relief.

Interview produced Alex Milzer with the Senior Directory, LLC on 10.14.14