How Diabetes Impacts Your Mental Health is part of our Mental Health series. Type 1 isn’t just about counting carbs, checking blood glucose levels (BGLs) and administering insulin. The disease takes an emotional and psychological toll as well. Check out other clinical information and personal stories about Mental Health.
Being a parent and primary caregiver for a child with type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a 24/7 job with no breaks. Even when their child isn’t physically with them, these parents still worry about their child and may even be managing their child’s diabetes from afar. Even though most parents would do anything to keep their child’s blood sugars in range and make sure they’re safe, being a caregiver can be exhausting. If you’re a caregiver for a child with T1D, it’s really important, both for your own health and the health and well-being of your child, to be aware of the signs of caregiver burnout and to take care of yourself.
Caregiver burnout is real, and often goes ignored (or even unnoticed) by those who are experiencing it. Defined as 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
Unlike people with diabetes who experience burnout and stop actively managing their diabetes for a period of time, caregivers almost always keep going, becoming even more burned-out. Of course this makes sense—no parent is going to stop taking care of their child’s health. However there are some things that caregivers of children with T1D can do to take care of themselves.
Recognize that burnout is normal
Caregivers of children with T1D are on duty all the time and it’s no secret that this is hard work and it’s normal for people who work hard to get burned-out sometimes. People who experience caregiver burnout oftentimes feel guilty for feeling burned-out because they perceive burnout as a sign of failure. This can lead to resentment and increased burnout. Recognizing that burnout can be a normal part of being a caregiver can help people manage these feelings.
Getting support from other people is a critical part of managing caregiver burnout. Support from other caregivers of children with T1D can help those struggling see that they’re not alone in their experience and they can learn what others have done when they’ve felt burned-out. Talking to friends outside the diabetes world can give caregivers a neutral ear to vent to and a shoulder to cry on.
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. People often think that taking care of themselves means not taking care of other, and nothing can be further from the truth. In fact if you don’t care for yourself, you’ll likely have a much more difficult time caring for others. Taking care of yourself can mean anything from going for a walk, to getting coffee with a friend, to reading a book. Self-care doesn’t have be time-consuming or expensive, but it should help you feel a bit more refreshed and relaxed so you can continue being the best caregiver you can be.
Read more from Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE on Diabetes Burnout.