Most people don’t consider the day when they have to take care of a parent or a loved one. It’s just not something we think about or plan for. Thoughts of our future typically center on business accomplishments, raising a family, maybe travel. However, the reality is that many of us will take care of a loved one at some point in our lives. Statistics show that informal caregivers make up 80 percent of all long-term care in the United States. Of these people who are suddenly thrust into the role of caregiver, many of them have other responsibilities, including families and careers.
The role of caregiver is a challenging one. The physical and mental toll of looking after someone’s every need is challenging enough, but add to it the emotional toll of dealing with someone who’s going through a difficult time in their life or, perhaps, living out their life’s final chapter. It’s easy to see how it can become a little harder to get up in the morning, if you are a caregiver. You may feel like you’re constantly getting sick or often uttering the phrase, “if it’s not one thing, it’s another.” You may also grow resentful of the person you are taking care of. These feelings are all natural, you’re a human being.
However, these feelings are also detrimental. Signs of caregiver burnout including anxiety, depression, declining health or irritability can make it difficult for you to care for another person. The bottom line is in order for you to provide care for a loved one, you must first take care of yourself. Here’s a few tips for preventing home health caregiver burnout.
- Share the load: Providing care for someone is a difficult enough. Caring for that person alone, especially when you are not a healthcare provider by profession, is exceedingly difficult. That’s why receiving help is so important. Your friends and family are more than willing to lend a hand around the house, take your parents on a walk, or pick up your children from school, if you are running late, you just have to be willing to ask. It’s also helpful to have an idea of what your needs are when asking for help. Additionally, it’s important to allow people to help you in the way that they feel most comfortable. It will ensure that they are the most effective for you and your loved one.
- Stay connected: It’s times like these that friends are so important. And as a caregiver, it’s easy to allow providing care to encompass all facets of your life. If it’s not cooking for a loved one, it’s helping them out of bed. If it’s not helping out of bed, it’s taking them to doctor’s appointments. Having people to talk to that are outside of your caregiving duties is critical. It will give you a chance to discuss any challenges you may be having and, perhaps, discover solutions that you may not have thought about. Spending time with others also gives you a precious break from your situation, which can recharge your batteries and give you the necessary boost to handle what lies in front of you.
- Feed the well: Part of gaining the emotional strength necessary to handle caregiving duties is understanding the life is bigger that your current situation. There are a number of ways to do this, including prayer, meditation and yoga. Long walks are also helpful. The key is to seek perspective, which will go long way when days (or weeks) don’t go as you’d hoped.
- Take care of your own health: Caregivers focus so much on the health of their loved ones that they often forget that their own health is equally important. Caregivers are more likely to eat poorly and sleep less hours per night. These activities alone put them at a much higher risk for chronic medical issues. They are also more likely to develop issues with alcohol and drugs. Make sure that you attend your doctor’s appointments. You can even mention your caregiver duties to your doctor to receive additional guidance on how to maintain your physical and mental health. Maintain a healthy diet and exercise daily. Even a walk around the block can do wonders for your physical and mental health. Also, there been a myriad of studies pointing to the importance of sleep. Eight hours a night will help you stay healthy and focused.
- Talk about it: It’s vital to express your fears and frustrations to another person. It helps you get perspective on your situation, find solutions, de-stress and realize that you aren’t alone. Sometimes you need a shoulder to cry on. There may be a friend or family member who can fill that role. It may also be helpful to join a support group. These groups have members who are in the same situation and know what you’re going through. If you find it difficult to discuss your issues, perhaps journaling will help. The point is to properly vent your feelings.
- De-stress: It’s important for you to find ways to lighten the stress. It may be difficult to do so, but laughter is one of the best ways to soothe the issues that we face in life. Whether it’s a movie, TV show, book or that quick-witted friend, find it and allow life to be a little lighter, even for a few moments.
Caregivers are amazing and patient people who put others above themselves. Unfortunately, those qualities can lead them to burnout over time, rendering them ineffective for themselves and others. Take care of your mental, physical and emotional health. It’s the most important part of caring for others.
AstraCare’s in home health care professionals can provide a variety of services including 24-hour care, medication management, and respite care. To learn more, visit our contact us page or call us at (844) 811-4401.