In a recent programme aired on Channel NewsAsia, caregivers in Singapore were interviewed on their caregiving experience, and the challenges that they face. Watch it here
It is estimated that there are over 210,000 caregivers and counting in an ageing Singapore, with some 70 per cent of them aged 40 and above. Also, among carers of stroke survivors, 40.2 per cent have depressive symptoms, according to a 2017 study by the Institute of Mental Health and the National University of Singapore. Carers of cancer patients are also at greater risk of developing depression than the general population, according to a Singapore Medical Journal study. (Ng, 2019).
Taking care of a loved one for a prolonged period of time is not an easy task. Whether it is taking care of an elderly parent, a child with special needs, or spouse who is ill, caregiving can take a physical and emotional toll on the caregiver over time. When working with patients and their families as an occupational therapist, I have met caregivers who experience the symptoms of burnout. Some of them have depression and anxiety, and yet are unwilling to seek professional help out of the guilt and shame they experience. Unfortunately, this also compromises on the care that they provide for their loved ones, and often relationships are strained.
What is "Caregiver Burnout"?
Caregiver burnout is defined as ‘a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. Usually, it is accompanied by a change in attitude, from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned.’ (Cleveland Clinic, 2019). Caregivers who are burnt out may experience stress, fear, anxiety, guilt and depression. If unaddressed, this can negatively impact their work, sleep, and relationships with others as well.
Caregiver burnout is defined as "a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. Usually, it is accompanied by a change in attitude, from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned."
What are the symptoms of caregiver burnout?
Symptoms (Beckerman, 2018) are similar to those of depression and anxiety and may include the following:
Withdrawal from family and friends
Loss of interest in hobbies
Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring
Changes in sleep pattern and appetite
Feeling irritable, depressed, hopeless and helpless
Emotional and physical exhaustion
Excessive use of alcohol or sleep medication to cope
Image Source - Common Symptoms of Caregiving Burnout