Caregiver burnout can be avoided by learning to manage your “caring.”
Posted April 27, 2012
Family members are always happy to assist their aging loved ones. As the care giving experience begins, many family members choose to care for their aging loved one themselves. The caregivers are enthusiastic and energized. Caregivers experience personal rewards caring for their charges.
Elder care can be unpredictable and intermittent. What once used to entail a few weeks or months now often extends for years. Recent studies show the average duration of care is 4.3 years; and 29% of caregivers have provided care for longer than 5 years.
As the needs of an aging patient change, so do the responsibilities of the caregiver. As a consequence, the increased demand on the caregiver creates chronic stress.
Many caregivers believe that “caring” is giving attention, worrying about their aging loved one, avoiding saying “no” to any request, and a feeling of always having to be available at a moments notice. Most caregivers contribute to caregiver burnout by not setting limits and boundaries, and avoiding the telltale signs of chronic stress.
Many caregivers believe that if they are not available to do everything they will be perceived as uncaring. Caregivers often create a dependency between their aging loved one and themselves. This dependency is a bond that the caregiver eventually becomes to resent. Anger, depression, guilt all contribute to chronic stress.
The most important thing a caregiver can do is to make oneself a priority. Experiencing the physical and mental deterioration of your aging loved one and feeling helpless and overwhelmed creates a scenario for a spiral into the caregiver becoming a patient.
The first step to avoiding caregiver burnout is to be aware of the signs of chronic stress.
The next step is to acknowledge those signs and take the necessary actions to explore options for remedies.
Signs of caregiver burnout are...
- Difficulty with sleep, falling asleep, staying asleep
- Feelings of fatigue, lack of energy (physical and mental) even if you had a good nights sleep
- Easily becoming angered or unusually irritable
- Difficulty focusing or making decisions
- Feelings of anxiety, frustration, guilt, depression or grief
- Feeling of hopelessness
- Lack of feelings of joy or moments of happiness or enjoyment
- Neglect of one’s own health and personal care
- Chronic health conditions
These are just a few of the signs of chronic stress and caregiver burnout. If you have experienced any of these for a period of longer than 2 weeks, or if your caregiving has interfered with you having any type of normal life, you should seek help.
It is important that you do not ignore the signs of chronic stress or caregiver burnout. Significant health consequences could occur from ignoring those signs.
There is good news about avoiding caregiver burnout. There is clear and effective treatment for chronic stress.
Take time to consult with your physician to get the proper care for yourself. You must take care of yourself before you can help take care of others.
Stress-relieving strategies that work involve rewiring your emotional responses to situations and to assist you in getting back to a more balanced life. Simply put, take the negative energy or thoughts and replace it with positive ones. This take thought and practice, but over time can be an effective method for changing your perceptions and feelings.
Other strategies to utilize:
Acknowledge that you are making a difference in someone else’s life. You are valuable and useful.
Determine what is ultimately important and your goal for caring for your loved one.
Prioritize and create a routine.
Acknowledge you and your loved one have limitations. Forgive yourself and those around you for those limitations.
Do not hesitate to request assistance from others. It will make you a healthier and happier caregiver.
Research community resources.
Make yourself a priority.
Learn to take time and relax, and have some fun along the way.
Take a break when necessary-and be aware of when you feel a need to take a break.
Use relaxation techniques.
Stay connected to family, and friends. Take time to enjoy activities with others.
Talk out your feelings with others.
Join a support group.
Have a family meeting.
Seek professional help or talk with your spiritual counselor.
Diane Carbo, RN has over 35 years’ experience in a variety of nursing settings, including orthopedics/rehabilitation nursing, home care, discharge planning, case management, oncology, hospice, senior behavior health, assisted living, and long term care. Her passion is to help people plan for long-term care needs, and to that end started AgingHomeHealthCare.com. Her goal is to assist aging seniors and their families to develop plans that allow individuals to remain home, safely and comfortably, in the least restrictive environment, regardless of age, income or ability level.