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    Heart Failure and Caregiver Burnout

    Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. It can be accompanied by a change in attitude, from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned.

    It can happen when caregivers don't get the help they need, or if they try to do more than they are able -- either physically or financially.

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    Caregivers who are "burned out" may have fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression. Many caregivers also feel guilty if they spend time on themselves rather than on their ill loved ones.

    What Are the Symptoms?

    The symptoms of caregiver burnout are similar to the symptoms of stress and depression. They include:

    • Withdrawal from friends, family, and other loved ones
    • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
    • Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless, and helpless
    • Changes in appetite, weight, or both
    • Changes in sleep patterns
    • Getting sick more often
    • Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring
    • Emotional and physical exhaustion
    • Irritability

    What Causes It?

    Caregivers often are so busy caring for others that they neglect their own emotional, physical, and spiritual health. The demands on their body, mind, and emotions can easily seem overwhelming. That can lead to fatigue and hopelessness -- and, ultimately, burnout.

    Other things that can lead to caregiver burnout include:

    Role confusion: Many people struggle with their role when thrust into the role of caregiver. It can be hard for a person to separate their role as caregiver from their role as spouse, lover, child, friend, etc.

    Unrealistic expectations: Many caregivers expect their efforts to have a positive effect on the health and happiness of their loved one. This may not always be realistic.

    Lack of control: A lot of people become frustrated by a lack of money, resources, and skills to effectively plan, manage, and organize their loved one's care.

    Unreasonable demands: Some place unreasonable burdens on themselves, in part because they see themselves as the only person who can provide care.

    Other factors: Many caregivers cannot tell that they are burned out. Eventually, they get to the point where they cannot function well. They may even become sick.

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