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Caregiver burden, or burnout, is a condition that affects many family caregivers. A family caregiver is a relative, friend, or companion who provides non-paid regular care for an elderly person. Caregiving for seniors or persons with an illness such as cancer can be stressful, as many home care recipients require help with personal grooming and may have memory or other additional problems. Signs of caregiver burden may include frequent sadness, headaches, and resentment towards the care recipient. If a caregiver feels anger or aggression toward the person she is caring for or has suicidal thoughts, she should seek help immediately from a community organization, a licensed therapist, or through a crisis telephone line.
Getting help to identify and work through caregiver burden is important; it's a common as well as a treatable issue. Diagnostic procedures to identify caregiver burnout or burden are usually quite fast and informal, such as answering a questionnaire like the Caregiver Strain Index (CSI). The CSI has 13 questions designed to measure the level of stress caregivers are are experiencing in different categories, such as financial and physical strain and time management issues.
Once caregiver burden is identified, ways of coping with it can be learned. Avoiding isolation and socializing with others is important, as is having a social support network. If help for caregiver stress is not sought out, caregivers may turn to destructive behaviors, such as abusing alcohol, as they carry the weight of the problem around. Caregivers looking after senior family members or companions should be aware of caregiver burden and its preventive measures.
Many community centers can help arrange respite care for stressed caregivers. Respite care is when a professional caregiver takes over from family care for at least a few hours. This allows the family caregiver to take a break away from the home, which can help relieve much of the burden of caregiving. In some communities, the family caregiver drops the care recipient off at an adult daycare center in the morning and picks him or her up later in the day.
Some community care centers specialize in dealing with care recipients with certain conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's patients often become disoriented and tend to wander off if they aren't constantly supervised. Community center respite drop off care can also provide social opportunities and activities for elderly and other care recipients, such as crafts or card games. Support group meetings for caregivers at community centers or churches can help prevent caregiver burnout by encouraging an exchange of experiences and ideas.
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