by Linda Burhans
Week after week caregivers come to my support groups feeling so overworked and under-appreciated that many times they feel like giving up. Being a family caregiver is a time-consuming and many times an exhausting job. The daily emotional and physical demands of the caregiving process often leads to feelings of burnout.
The best way to combat burnout is to monitor your stress levels. Family caregivers often deny or are oblivious to signs of burnout. Once you burnout, caregiving is no longer a healthy option for either you or the person you’re caring for.
1. One way to keep caregiver burnout at bay is to schedule regular “time-outs” for yourself on your calendar. Take time away from being a caregiver to do something you enjoy. Accept assistance when family or friends offer it.
2. Be realistic about how much you can do. It’s okay to set boundaries and just say no. You can’t give endlessly without refilling your own tank. It doesn’t mean you’re not doing a good job as a caregiver.
3. Take advantage of respite care services. Respite can provide a temporary break for caregivers. This can range from a few hours of in-home care to adult daycare to a short stay at a senior facility.
4. Educate yourself. The more you know about the illness, the more effective you will be in caring for your loved one. Keep an open line of communication with doctors and health care providers.
5. Sticking to a daily routine can be a lifesaver. It will help you feel in control rather than stressed out. It also lets your loved one know what to expect.
6. Get enough sleep. If your love one sleeps during the day but is awake much of the night, try to take nap. Occasionally you may need to ask a friend or relative to stay with your loved one overnight so you can get a good nights sleep.
7. Don’t skip checkups or medical appointments for yourself. It’s easy to forget about your own health when you’re busy with caring for your loved one. You need to be healthy to take good care of someone else. As my sister always says- put the oxygen mask on yourself first.
8. Consider bringing a well-trained cat or dog in for a visit. Spending time with an animal can be incredibly soothing for a loved one confined to home. Pets can lower blood pressure and reduce stress. They even make elderly people more alert. And seeing a loved one perk up can make you, the caregiver, happier, too.
9. Forgive yourself of your own imperfections and identify what you can and cannot change. There is no such thing as a perfect caregiver. You may not be able to change someone else’s behavior, but you can change the way you react to it.
10. Join a caregiver support group. No one understands your situation better than another caregiver. Sharing your feelings and experiences with others in the same situation can help you manage stress. It can also be helpful in locating resources for reducing feelings of frustration and isolation.
Linda Burhans is a keynote speaker, best-selling author and caregiver advocate with Harmony Home Health. Go to our Calendar of Events, Support Groups, and Workshops to find a Pinellas caregiver support group near you facilitated by Linda.