Caretaker Burnout: Tips for Regaining Your Enthusiasm, Strength, and Hope

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We all know the demands of caregiving can be overwhelming, especially if you feel you have little control over the situation or you’re in over your head. If the stress of caregiving is left unchecked, it can take a toll on your own health, relationships, and state of mind—eventually leading to burnout.

When you’re burned out, it’s tough to do anything, let alone look after someone else. There are plenty of things you can do to rein in the stress of caregiving and regain a sense of balance, joy, and hope in your life.

Caring for a loved one can be very rewarding, but it also involves many stressors. If you don’t get the physical and emotional support you need, the stress of caregiving leaves you vulnerable to a wide range of problems, including depression, anxiety, and burnout. And when you get to that point, both you and the person you’re caring for suffer. That’s why managing the stress levels in your life is just as important as making sure your family member gets to their doctor’s appointment or takes their medication on time.

In this article, you’ll find many helpful tips. If you can do at least 3 of these tips, you’ll be on your way to being a better caretaker – for our loved ones as well as yourself!

Once you burn out, caregiving is no longer a healthy option for either you or the person you’re caring for. So it’s important to watch for the warning signs of caregiver burnout and take action right away when you recognize the problem.

Empower yourself. Find ways to feel empowered. Feeling powerless is the number one contributor to burnout and depression. And it’s an easy trap to fall into as a caregiver, especially if you feel stuck in a role you didn’t expect or helpless to change things for the better. But no matter the situation, you aren’t powerless. This is especially true when it comes to your state of mind. You can’t always get the extra time, money, or physical assistance you’d like, but you can always get more happiness and hope.

Rejuvenate your mind. Rejuvenate your caregiving choice with optimism and hope. Acknowledge that, despite any resentments or burdens you feel, you have made a conscious choice to provide care. Focus on the positive reasons behind that choice. These deep, meaningful motivations can help sustain you through difficult times.

Control only what you can. Focus on the things you can control. You can’t wish your mother’s cancer away or force your brother to help out more. Rather than stressing out over things you can’t control, focus on the way you choose to react to problems.

Celebrate the small victories. If you start to feel discouraged, remind yourself that all your efforts matter. You don’t have to cure your loved one’s illness to make a difference. Don’t underestimate the importance of making your loved one feel more safe, comfortable, and loved!

Validate your role. Feeling appreciated can go a long way toward not only accepting a stressful situation but enjoying life more. Studies show that caregivers who feel appreciated experience greater physical and emotional health. Caregiving actually makes them happier and healthier, despite its demands. But what can you do if the person you’re caring for is no longer able to feel or show their appreciation for your time and efforts?

Applaud your own efforts. If you’re not getting external validation, find ways to acknowledge and reward yourself. Remind yourself of the good you’re doing. If you need something more concrete, try making a list of all the ways your caregiving is making a positive difference. Refer back to it when you start to feel low.

Talk to a supportive family member or friend. Positive reinforcement doesn’t have to come from the person you’re caring for. When you’re feeling unappreciated, turn to friends and family who will listen to you and acknowledge your efforts.

Ask for help. Taking on all of the responsibilities of caregiving without regular breaks or assistance is a surefire recipe for burnout. Don’t try to do it all alone. Look into respite care. Or enlist friends and family who live near you to run errands, bring a hot meal, or “babysit” the patient so you can take a well-deserved break.

Speak up. Don’t expect friends and family members to automatically know what you need or how you’re feeling. Be up front about what’s going on with you and the person you’re caring for. If you have concerns or thoughts about how to improve the situation, express them—even if you’re unsure how they’ll be received.

Spread the responsibility. Try to get as many family members involved as possible. Even someone who lives far away can help. You may also want to divide up caregiving tasks. One person can take care of medical responsibilities, another with finances and bills, and another with groceries and errands, for example.

Set up a regular check-in. Ask a family member, friend, or volunteer from your church or senior center to call you on a set basis (every day, weekly, or how ever often you think you need it). This person can help you spread status updates and coordinate with other family members.

Say “yes” when someone offers assistance. Don’t be shy about accepting help. Let them feel good about supporting you. It’s smart to have a list ready of small tasks that others could easily take care of, such as picking up groceries or driving your loved one to an appointment.

Be willing to relinquish some control. Delegating is one thing. Trying to control every aspect of care is another. People will be less likely to help if you micromanage, give orders, or insist on doing things your way.

Find ways to prioritize. Prioritize activities that bring you enjoyment . Make regular time for things that bring you happiness, whether it’s reading, working in the garden, tinkering in your workshop, knitting, playing with the dogs, or watching the game.

Find ways to pamper yourself. Small luxuries can go a long way in relieving stress and boosting your spirits. Light candles and take a long bath. Ask your hubby for a back rub. Get a manicure. Buy fresh flowers for the house. Or whatever makes you feel special.

Get out of the house. Seek out friends, family, and respite care providers to step in with caregiving so you can have some time away from the home.

Take care of your health. Think of your body like a car. With the right fuel and proper maintenance, it will run reliably and well. Neglect its upkeep and it will start to give you trouble. Don’t add to the stress of your caregiving situation with avoidable health woes.

Exercise. When you’re stressed and tired, the last thing you feel like doing is exercising. But you’ll feel better afterwards. Exercise is a powerful stress reliever and mood enhancer. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes on most days. When you exercise regularly, you’ll also find it boosts your energy level and helps you fight fatigue.

Meditate. A daily relaxation or meditation practice can help you relieve stress and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation. Even a few minutes in the middle of an overwhelming day can help you feel more centered.

Eat well. Nourish your body with fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean protein, and healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil. Unlike sugar and caffeine—which provide a quick pick-me-up and an even quicker crash—these foods will fuel you with steady energy.

Join a support group. A caregiver support group is a great way to share your troubles and find people who are going through the same experiences that you are living each day. If you can’t leave the house, many Internet groups are also available.

In most support groups, you’ll talk about your problems and listen to others talk; you’ll not only get help, but you’ll also be able to help others. Most importantly, you’ll find out that you’re not alone. You’ll feel better knowing that other people are in the same situation, and their knowledge can be invaluable, especially if they’re caring for someone with the same illness as you are.

If you can do at least 3 of these tips, you’ll be on your way to being a better caretaker – for our loved ones as well as yourself!

And always remember, Hopkinton Home Care is here to help.

If you are worried about a loved one when you’re away from home, we can help. Let’s find out together how to share the responsibility of in-home health care with your loved ones.

Our service areas include Ashland, Bellingham, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopedale, Hopkinton, Hudson, Marlborough, Southborough, Upton, Westborough, Whitinsville and surrounding towns in the MetroWest.

Celebrate National Nutrition Month by Being Healthy with Hopkinton Home Care - Understanding Nutrition, Activity and Healthy Aging

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