Let’s face it – being a caregiver can be exhausting. Added to that, being a primary caregiver for a child with Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a 24/7 job with no breaks. It’s common for caregivers of T1D kids to worry about their child’s blood sugar levels, and that kids are making healthy choices as they become independent.
In many cases, parents have to manage their child’s diabetes from afar through Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems, collaboration with school nurses, and preparing enough low treatment for a team soccer game.
It’s important to manage your child’s needs. However, it’s also imperative that caregivers be aware of the signs of caregiver burnout. This is vital to the health and well-being of both the caregiver and the child.
Is Caregiver Burnout a real thing?
You betcha! Though, it often goes ignored or unnoticed by those who experience it. Caregiver burnout is often defined as the physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that can go along with caring for someone with significant health needs.
Common signs of Caregiver Burnout
- social isolation
- feeling depressed
- feeling anxious
Caregiver burnout almost always stems from a good place. Many caregivers want the best for their children, causing them to push through, even when they need rest. This almost always leads to more burn-out and the caregiver’s mental health becoming jeopardized.
Burnout is normal
It’s no secret that people who work hard get burned out sometimes. However, many people who experience burnout feel guilty, because they perceive burnout as a sign of failure. If not managed, this can leading to feelings like anger and resentment – sometimes toward the child and other times toward diabetes itself.
Remember, burnout is often a normal part of being a caregiver!
How to deal with Burnout
Studies have repeatedly shown that utilizing social supports during stressful times leads to an increased ability to cope in a healthy way. That said, it’s no surprise that connecting with supports is an important factor in treating caregiver burnout. Take some time to brainstorm what kind of support you need and who can offer it. Remember! Support comes in all shapes and sizes. There are two main types of social supports:
- Emotional Support
- One of our basic human needs involves experiencing real, authentic, meaningful connections. We receive emotional support through loved ones who offer sympathy and listening. It’s important to find someone who can listen to us vent, be there while we cry, or help us process through feelings of anger and loss.
- Instrumental Support
- Help or assistance in a tangible or physical way. In the caregiver burnout world, this may include finding someone who can help you in a financial emergency (we all know insulin ain’t cheap!), or who can trust to watch your kids while you take a few hours to yourself.
Social support is the belief that others understand your needs and will try to help you! Friend/family
You can seek out support through friends and family, clubs, support groups, Sara’s online support groups (click here!), or connecting with other caregivers of children with T1D.
In some cases, it can be helpful to seek individual therapy for caregiver burnout. If you are a caregiver with constantly high stress, continuously feeling isolated or like no one understands, or if you feel guilty about feelings of anger or your own needs, seek therapy to process through this. I may be biased here, but there is NOTHING wrong with seeking your own therapy. In fact, your child’s well-being may depend on it.
Even though being a caregiver of a child with T1D is a full-time job, it’s important that caregivers also take care of themselves. If caregivers don’t practice self care they’ll likely have a more difficult time caring for others. Remember:
Self care does NOT mean you are being selfish.
Self care does NOT mean you are neglecting your duties as a caregiver.
Self care ideas:
- Go for a walk (with a pet if you have one!)
- Get coffee with a friend
- Read a book
- Get your nails done
- Go golfing
- Go to the gym
- Listen to music (and be fully immersed in it)
Self-care doesn’t have be time-consuming or expensive. It simply needs to be something you enjoy. Let me repeat…something YOU enjoy! Self care will help you feel refreshed and relaxed so you can continue being the best caregiver you can be.