Therapy fatigue or Carer burnout is a rising concern among parents and carers.
Caring for a loved one is a rewarding experience but can also be stressful, highly demanding, and exhausting. In Australia, there are more than 2.65 million caregivers. That equates to almost 1 in 11. And all carers will experience fatigue or therapy fatigue at some point. Prolonged periods of stress and anxiety can cause complete physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion.
What is carer burnout?
Carer burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. It may be accompanied by a change in attitude, from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned. Burnout can occur when caregivers don’t get the help they need or if they try to do more than they are able, physically, mentally, or financially.
Carer Burnout doesn’t mean you don’t care anymore; it just means that you need support and, in most cases, a break or someone to share the load. There is no shame in feeling overwhelmed. It important to recognise it early and seek help.
Therapy fatigue, and why we need to start talking more about it.
Therapy fatigue and caregiver burnout are similar; however, therapy fatigue relates more to what seems to be an endless cycle of the weekly therapy session and the inability to cope with the demands of each appointment.
Mother of three, Imogen describes an average week as “Chaotic”
My son has speech therapy twice a month, occupational therapy once a month, psychology once every three weeks, and his psychiatrist once every eight weeks. There are weeks when I lose track of appointments and struggle to remember what was discussed in each appointment. It is too much sometimes.”
Imogen’s second child has just received his diagnosis. Imogen fears she will be unable to juggle her children’s appointments. “I have two autistic children who require support, and I have a third child to who I also need to dedicate time. I am exhausted and at my wit’s end.”
Imogen explains that she spent over six months on a waitlist for her son’s psychologist and over 12 months for the Occupational therapist; if she reduces the hours or even stops the appointments, she fears she will never get back into the preferred practice. She is also starting the whole process again with her newly diagnosed child.
“You can’t win. Waiting for ages then, no option to pause or take a break. If you miss an appointment or take a break, you still get charged.”
Imogen is far from alone with this endless wait times and appointments.
Carer burnout and when to ask for help
Asking for help does not come easy for most of us. Then, asking for help in a situation that is sometimes difficult to explain is almost impossible. In fact, according to Carer Gateway, many people don’t see themselves as carers. They are just parents who care for someone close to them. By recognising our role as parents and carers, we can open ourselves up too many support services available.
Carer Gateway is an Australian Government program providing free services and support for carers.
If you care for a family member or friend with a disability, a medical condition, mental illness, or who is frail due to age, then Carer Gateway can help you. This service can assist with everything from job training, counseling, and financial support to cleaning, groceries and transport depending on your individual needs.
Carers Australia is also another national carer organisation that can assist. They provide programs and counselling and can tailor support to your needs. There is a Carers Organisation in each state.
There are often no easy answers for carer fatigue and therapy fatigue. Just “taking a break” is sometimes just an unrealistic goal. But what is important is to reach out to those carer organisations in your state and access the funding and support available to you. You do not have to do it alone, ever.