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It can strike when you least expect and cause devastating consequences for you and the person you care for. Here’s why it’s so important to spot the signs of carer burnout

If you are so busy caring for the person you love that you ignore your own health, you aren’t alone. The vast majority of family carers admit that their own basic needs are often bottom of the priority list. But this approach can have disastrous consequences, not only for you but for the person you’re caring for.

When carers get ill

The demands you face on a daily basis aren’t only stressful, they can overwhelm your mind body and emotions – and they can make you very ill. When you get ill, the impact can be devastating.

A stark report by Carer’s UK revealed:

• 25 per cent of carers admitted to making themselves so ill they needed medical treatment
• 63 per cent said they suffered from depression
• 79 per cent reported high levels of anxiety
• 46 per cent of carers who were ill found they had no choice but to carry on caring because they were unable to access additional help from social care services or the NHS.

When carers go into hospital

If you become so ill that you need hospital treatment, the person you care for can find their life turned upside down as well. They may be admitted to hospital themselves or social services may have to step in and place them in emergency care – all of which can have a very negative effect on their health and wellbeing.

When carers are forced to make drastic decisions

If you reach breaking point, you may also find yourself facing some massive decisions in order to make life a bit easier. For example, some carers resort to giving up a job, selling their home, or giving up caring completely (even if they don’t really want to).

Don’t let yourself burnout

Many caregivers who are heading for burnout feel symptoms that are similar to stress and depression, including withdrawing from friends and family and experiencing changes in appetite, weight and sleep. They might also feel increasingly guilty if they spend even a small amount of time on themselves…

3 symptoms to watch out for

Role confusion – is the person you’re caring for your wife/partner/parent or simply a frail human being- sometimes one who isn’t very nice – that you have to care for? Constantly trying to separate the two roles can be emotionally waring.

Change of attitude – you used to be positive, patient, kind and caring. Now you’re just going through the motions. Sometimes you feel quite detached and unconcerned about what might happen next

Lack of control – you used to be really good at your job and managing your own finances. Now you have less money and feel less able to plan, manage and stay in control of your loved one’s care

4 ways to protect yourself

1. Have an emergency plan

Even if you’re currently feeling good, it’s sensible to have an emergency plan in place. Getting it all written down can help to lessen worries and fears in the future.

Start by considering who you would want to contact and/or would be able to care for your loved one if you suddenly weren’t able to. Then write down all the contact details of the person you care for, and all the contact details of the person – or people – who could be contacted in an emergency. Also include details of medication they need to take and any ongoing treatment they might need.

Tip: Some areas of the UK have emergency ‘carer card’ schemes – carers register with the scheme; they’re supported to create an emergency plan which is then stored safely and can be activated whenever necessary (they often have a 24-hour response service).

2. Accept your feelings

It’s perfectly normal to have negative feelings about your current situation, responsibilities or even about the person you’re caring for. You aren’t a bad person if you feel fed up, frustrated or angry. You’re human.

3. Talk to your GP

Many carers find this is the best starting point. Your GP can make a referral to social care services, they can also offer treatment for depression and anxiety.

4. Talk to other people who understand

Peer support can be incredibly useful when you’re a carer. Discovering you aren’t the only person in the world to find this difficult – impossible even – and realising you have more in common with other caregivers than you ever thought, can be very empowering. Join our caring community on facebook and get some much needed support right now.