How to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
Being a caregiver is hard work. It is emotionally draining at times, yet there are those with heart and stamina who do it daily. For some, it's a calling, and the world is a better place because of them.
There are businesses that provide professional caregiving services, and there are others who are just willing family members. Both options can be costly emotionally and financially. So for those who answer the calling, protecting themselves is crucial. Things like commercial auto insurance for home health care, health benefits, and mental health care resources are essential.
The truth is that many caregivers feel like they were forced into their roles. Many who care for family members often feel like they have to care for their loved ones because no one else will. Children feel obligated to care for elderly parents for as long as they can to avoid nursing homes.
Regardless of whether you are a professional caregiver or just a family member caring for your family in need, burnout is a concern. Thankfully, there are ways to guard yourself against burnout.
Signs and Symptoms of Burnout
Before we look at ways to prevent burnout, let's identify what to look for if you are a caregiver. Burnout is real for anyone who provides care for others. If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and tired, please don't think it is unique to your situation. Don't make the mistake of thinking you aren't good enough or are doing something wrong because you are feeling that way.
Burnout is characterized by feeling emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted due to providing care for someone else daily. Let's just call it what it is, a burden. Meeting the needs of someone else who can't do it on their own is a burden. It's exhausting and often thankless. But keep your "why" ready in mind to help remind yourself that it is necessary.
Burnout may leave you feeling stressed. You may notice that you're moody or agitated when others ask you for help or a favor. Caregivers often let their personal needs go at the expense of their own mental health. There just aren't enough hours in the day to meet everyone's needs, so your personal needs aren't met.
You may notice a change in your sleep habits. Maybe you are in denial about the condition of your loved one and are avoiding placing them in a long-term care setting. You feel exhausted, irritable, and may have your own untreated health concerns because you are spending every waking hour caring for others.
Depending on the illness that your loved one is battling, you may be dealing with their physical health while mentally and emotionally preparing them — and yourself — for the end of life. Illnesses like cancer can be particularly hard for caregivers. Caring for those with cancer is taxing on all aspects of the caregiver.
Tips to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
The good news is that burnout can be prevented, or even controlled if caregivers take some time out for holistic self-care. Read on to learn some easy tips on how to avoid burning out while you are pouring energy into caring for another.
Tip# 1 — Take Time Off
Everyone needs a day off. Take a break when you need it. Enlist the help of other family members, or schedule time off with your employer so you can get away and recharge your batteries. Caregiving is one of the hardest callings one can have, and statistics show that close to all caregivers will experience struggles related to caring for someone else.
You aren't going to be any good as a caregiver if you aren't also taking time to care for yourself. When you feel the symptoms of burnout, talk to your family about it. If you don't have any willing helpers, look to adult daycare providers. By taking your loved one there for a few hours a couple of times per week, you can have a bit of time for yourself.
Make sure you are keeping your family members informed about the progress of your loved one so it would be easy for them to step in and help when needed. Sometimes caregivers fear that others caring for their loved ones won't be able to provide the same quality of care that they give.
But by keeping everyone informed and up to date on progress, others can step in to help when you need a break.
Maybe people can't physically help care for your loved one, but there are other ways they can help. Keep an ongoing list of weekly tasks that can be done by someone else and would be a big help to you. This may include medication pickups, transporting to outside appointments, meal preparation, shopping trips, cleaning duties, or simply sending handwritten notes and cards of encouragement.
Tip # 2 — Find a Local Support Group
When you feel like no one can relate and you don't feel supported, look for a local caregiver support group. Contact local businesses that are in the caregiving industry to help guide you. You can contact your local ombudsman for assistance as well.
The goal is to get connected with like-minded people. Find others who can relate and support you because they understand precisely what you're going through.
Tip #3 — Be Realistic about Your Limits
You have got to realize that you aren't a superhero. You can't be all things to all people. Don't spread yourself so thin that you lose part of who you are in the process.
Be realistic about the health of your loved one, too. Understand their illness or disease process so you can prepare for what may come next. Don't think you have the power to heal because you are likely setting yourself up for disappointment and will end up blaming yourself if the worst happens.
Tip #4 — Care for Your Mental State Daily
The importance of maintaining good mental self-care and getting into a daily habit of taking care of yourself cannot be overstated. Maybe this means morning devotions, meditation, or exercise. Perhaps it's committing to reading a couple of chapters in a favorite book each day with a good cup of tea or coffee.
Spend time daily with your family and schedule weekly outings with them to stay connected. Do some weekly meal planning and prep so that they can have hot meals, even in your absence. Have a night-time routine that helps you get some restful sleep. Avoid activities and foods in the evening that give you energy. The goal is to rest, not run a marathon.
When you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed out, talk about it with a friend, another family member, or mental health professional. Don't let it continue thinking you can handle it, or it will pass. Nip it in the bud right away.
You have the right and responsibility to take care of your mental health.
Tip #5 — Remember that Physical Health is Important
If you aren't physically healthy, you aren't going to be useful to anyone else. The adage is true — when in an airplane emergency, don't put the oxygen mask on someone else before you put it on yourself. You are no good to them if you aren't breathing.
It is okay, allowed, and should be required for all caregivers to take care of themselves first. When you are sick, go to the doctor. When you are in pain, get relief, and rest. Have emergency arrangements in place for your loved one in the event that you have a sick day.
Planning and preparations are essential here and shouldn't be overlooked. Maintain a proper diet and keep an exercise routine to help you stay at your best physically at all times.
Caregiving is a Juggling Act
Chances are, you not only care for someone else, but you also have a family of your own at home. You may be wishing someone would provide you with a guide to caregiving to teach you how to be all things to all people.
Maybe you struggle every day and spread yourself too thin. The demands of your home and family are often ignored when caregiving. The impact, as a result, is felt throughout the family. Keep in mind that your patient probably doesn't expect you to give up your life to help them 24/7. They would likely understand that you have other obligations.
The question is, will your family at home understand that you are spending more time as a caregiver than you are as a mother or spouse?
You can't and shouldn't neglect your family to be a caregiver. That doesn't mean you shouldn't be a caregiver — it merely means you must make it clear to your family members that the situation sometimes requires all hands on deck.
Caregiving shouldn't be at the expense of others. It should be alongside the duties of daily living. If the responsibilities of caregiving are too much, you may need to consider hiring a professional caregiver.
Want more caregiving Advice?
Read the 2020 Ultimate Guide to Caregiving
We cover everything needed to be the best caregiver possible including the resources needed, characteristics, skills and traits, insurance needs, and more.
About the Author
Robyn Flint writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, AutoInsurance.org. She is a licensed realtor, a freelance writer, a published author, and an entrepreneur. Robyn is the mother of three and grandmother of three.
About Carex Health Brands
Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.
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