Although highly rewarding and satisfying, formal caregiving often comes with its fair share of daily stressors. The position can be exhausting and overwhelming, taking a toll on physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
If caregiver stress syndrome is left unattended over a prolonged time, it can ultimately lead to caregiver burnout, followed by harsh and devastating consequences.
In this article, we've gathered some valuable tips on how home care agencies can support their staff and protect them from caregiver burnout.
The very first step in caring for caregivers is understanding the syndrome and its dynamics, so let’s start there.
What Is Caregiver Burnout?
According to WHO, occupational burnout, common to all professions, is a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Three dimensions characterize occupational burnout:
- overwhelming fatigue or lack of energy;
- mental distance from the job, feeling cynical or negative towards it,
- reduced professional efficacy.
However, caring for other people is different from other professions. At its very core, professional caregiving is all about forming genuine relationships with clients and contributing to their wellbeing, which adds new dimensions to burnout.
WebMD defines caregiver burnout as a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that can be followed by a change in attitude-from positive and caring to negative and indifferent. Burnout happens when professional caregivers don't get the support they need to meet the demands of their job and the clients or try to do more than they can, physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Caregiver burnout generally results in employees feeling excessive exhaustion, stress, depression, and anxiety. When burnout occurs, not only will the employee and their clients suffer, but it can also put your agency at risk in many different ways. One such risk is high caregiver churn, which is often related to burnout.
Caregiver Burnout Symptoms
Burnout may look different in different carers, but many face common signs and symptoms. Some of the usual signs of caregiver burnout are:
* Anxiety or depression,
* Feeling excessively tired and run down,
* Difficulty coping with everyday tasks,
* Neglecting personal needs and responsibilities,
* Overreacting to minor disturbances,
* Easily frustrated and quick to anger,
* Feeling increasingly dissatisfied,
* Trouble concentrating, forgetful or foggy
* Eating, drinking, or smoking more,
* Getting sick frequently,
* Difficulty sleeping,
* Lack of enthusiasm, feeling helpless or hopeless,
* Life revolves around work, but it brings no pleasure or satisfaction,
* Low self-esteem and high self-doubt,
* Cutting back on leisure activities.
In its most extreme form, caregiver burnout can leave a professional uninterested or even hostile to the person they care for, sometimes leaving them at risk of hurting themselves or others.
Caregiver Burnout Risk Factors
In coming to terms with the factors that contribute to carer burnout, we must start from the characteristics of the profession itself.
People who choose to work in helping professions may be especially vulnerable to burnout. Generally, they decide to become caregivers because they have empathy and compassion for people in need of care. Even though this quality is essential for the profession, it can also make it challenging for a professional to find balance when caring for others.
Furthermore, the sad fact is that in their everyday work, caregivers witness a decline in the clients' health and are exposed to their pain and suffering. These factors can increase caregiver stress, lead to compassion fatigue, a condition that is specific for those working with other people's trauma, and caregiver burnout.
Besides the fact of working in the helping profession, some work environment specifics don’t make the situation any easier for the caregivers. Some of these factors that contribute to caregiver stress and burnout levels and often lead to caregiver churn are:
* Heavy workload,
* Little or no control over their scheduling,
* Difficulty in achieving work-life balance.
* Little or no communication at work etc.
While caregiving can never be a stress-free profession, there are many ways home care agencies can care for caregivers and prevent them from reaching burnout. Here are our six useful tips for you to begin with.
1. Support Work-Life Balance
Caregivers often have tiresome schedules and have to work around the clock. Additionally, as their schedules vary drastically from week to week, they lack perspective - usually, they don’t know how many days they’ll work next week or what their hours will look like. This situation can be exhausting and leave them with no means to ensure work-life balance.
Fulfilling small dreams, such as leisure time with their family, can sometimes seem like an impossible luxury for your staff. And if they don’t have enough time to relieve stress and recharge, they are heading towards caregiver burnout.
Support your caregivers in setting up some time for resting and doing the things they enjoy regularly.
One of the best ways to support them is by relieving their scheduling concerns and making an effort to fit the schedule to both your clients' and your caregivers' needs.
Even though this sometimes may seem (and sometimes it is) impossible, there are many ways that you can improve your scheduling. One of the most efficient ways is to use reliable home health management software, like Timeero, and streamline the entire process.
Such an app will allow your caregivers more visibility and control over their working hours. At the same time, care coordinators will have more options to match patients and caregivers according to preferences.
To go a step beyond when it comes to work-life balance and preventing caregiver burnout, make your agency proactive and offer benefits and rewards that include self-care treats.
2. Team Up
Having a solid social support system is crucial for preventing caregiver burnout. Team up, and create one of your own.
Home caregiving most often means working alone in client homes, which can be isolating and highly stressful for caregivers. To support them, establish a positive company culture and ensure your careers feel connected despite the physical distance.
You can set up regular check-ins for your caregivers and encourage them to share what they're going through while out on the field. For some of your caregivers, the very act of expressing their feelings and frustrations can be healing.
You can also organize regular team get-togethers so that the caregivers can share their concerns with those in the same situation and who will easily understand them. Such efforts won't cost you much but will reduce caregiver stress immensely, thus preventing burnout.
3. Reduce the Workload
The quickest way to cause caregiver burnout is by putting a hefty workload on their shoulders.The least you can do to ease your employees’ workload is to help them by using new technology solutions. Consider how much time your caregiver spends doing all their paperwork instead of focusing on their clients. Just by streamlining such tasks, you will reduce their administrative burden and your caregivers’ workload.
Using new home health technology solutions, your caregivers will easily access all the information they need to do their job professionally. Having the notes about all their patients, their personality, preferences and need available at their fingertips, will save them valuable time and energy and make them feel more confident about their job, thus reducing their stress levels, and preventing burnout.
4. Reward and Show Appreciation
Feeling appreciated can mean a lot to caregivers dealing with stressful situations daily.
To support your employees and prevent caregiver burnout, find ways to recognize the job well done and reward your staff regularly. This way, you will keep them happy, motivated, and engaged. You can reward your caregiver with a bonus check for extra achievements, but the acknowledgment doesn't necessarily need to be financial. It can be a day off, a thank you card, or simply an SMS - as long as your caregivers' efforts are seen and acknowledged.
5. Educate and Train Your Team
You can build a team community and provide support to your caregivers by organizing various activities, such as before or after shift check-ins or morning coffee conversations.
Providing various team education and training options can help your caregivers to:
* Learn how to manage time and prioritize,
* Learn how to identify their emotions and control them,
* Recognize stress warning signs their body is sending,
* Learn about caregiver stress management,
* Practice self-care by learning about the importance of a healthy diet, exercise, and quality sleep,
* Practice mindfulness,
* Ask for and receive support at work, home, and community.
Consider offering yoga or meditation classes for your staff. Such courses can help them create healthy coping mechanisms that could bring feelings of joy, relieve stress, and prevent caregiver burnout. All your staff needs to know how to recognize the signs of stress timely, manage them and build resilience.
6. Provide Information on Additional Support
However, sometimes the support you provide to your caregivers might not be enough to prevent burnout or support those already facing this condition.
To ensure that your employees get adequate support, provide them with access to information about any support groups or local organizations, both those meeting online or in person.
If you notice that any of your staff is already showing signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout, such as depression or anxiety, encourage them to find appropriate professional help. They must get support as soon as possible to stop suffering from the consequences of prolonged, high-stress levels.
So, How Do You Manage Caregiver Burnout?
There are many things agencies can do to support caregivers, prevent burnout or alleviate it. Besides creating a positive and open company culture and forming a supportive network for your caregivers, implementing certain software solutions, like Timeero, will reduce their workload and help your caregivers achieve a better work-life balance.