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Caregiver burden can be defined as the strain or challenges felt by caregivers in respect to the physical, psychological, emotional, social, and even financial consequences that can be experienced by family members caring for individuals with dementia. It can also be referred to as caregiver burnout. This encompasses when the caregiver reaches a point of physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion from providing consistent care. It can result in feelings of guilt and anxiety, lead to fatigue and issues with physical health, and contribute toward a sense of isolation and loneliness when outside help isn’t readily available. While caregiver burden is applicable to a wide array of different medical diagnoses, there are unique challenges that family members are confronted with when caring for their family member with dementia.

The Challenge of Caring for those with Dementia

For other medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s or stroke, where individuals may be more aware of their physical and cognitive deficits, those with dementia often are less aware of these deficits or may attempt to mask them. This can result in tension developing between caregivers and their family members, as the necessary aid that a caregiver attempts to provide feels unnecessary for the individual. When the problem cannot openly be acknowledged and discussed by both parties, care can become more challenging to provide.

Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout

  • Feelings of exhaustion
  • Chronic headaches
  • Feelings of hopelessness and caregiver inadequacy
  • Feeling you lack control over your 
  • More susceptible to sickness
  • Changes in sleeping pattern
  • Changes in appetite
  • Withdrawal from other friends and family
  • Irritation or frustration

Avenues for Caregiver Burden Relief

When confronted with this challenge, the first step forward is to pursue help from other individuals. It can feel natural that all responsibility falls squarely upon your own shoulders, but this mentality can be counterproductive. To provide adequate care for your loved ones, you must also prioritize your own physical and mental well-being. Ways to pursue outside assistance can include seeking out support groups or community projects in your area. Some resources available in Louisiana include Charlie’s Place, Meals on Wheels, Council on Aging, and within-state respite care. Even having another family member take the wheel for a few days or hours can have a huge positive impact!

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