Caregiver Burnout? Tips and Strategies for Prevention.
National Family Caregivers month, November, has come and gone. Where does that lead us today and how can we balance caregiving demands throughout the year? The definition of a caregiver is a person who is responsible for taking care of someone who is unable to take care of themselves for reasons of illness, aging, or dependence such as with a child. In our community the population of aging adults is exceptionally high, therefore the focus in this discussion will be on aging adults.
Caregivers vary in situation however, many who find themselves in this position have done so out of necessity and love of the person they are caring for. Although necessity dictates the responsibility for caring for a spouse or a parent, many are inexperienced to handle the stressors. In addition, feelings of guilt ensue when the adult child or aging spouse feels as though they are not doing a good job for their loved one. Adding to feelings of guilt are feelings of fear from worrying about what will happen to their loved one if they are unable to provide care. As a result of the misplaced guilt and fear, the tendency is to neglect self-care for the benefit of their loved one
These and other negative feelings can quickly overwhelm and lead to exhaustion, which is the hallmark of caregiver burnout. Caregiver burnout is defined as the mental, emotional, and physical exhaustion that can lead to depression, physical illness and an overall decompensation in the ability to cope with daily routines. Experienced caregivers are very aware of the dangers for caregiver burnout. We have experienced these feelings and have adopted strategies to cope in order to prevent the spiral that leads to despair.
The most important strategy is learning to provide self-care without guilt. Taking a break, getting good nutrition and proper rest along with having fun are some of the ways we can refresh in order to be our best for our loved ones. Another important strategy is learning how to “let go and let others”. Accepting help and delegating tasks are other hallmarks of a healthy caregiver. Utilizing available resources between family, friends, and hired services can help relieve the stress and isolation caregivers experience. Think of it as being on an airplane. We are taught to first put the oxygen mask on ourselves before helping others. The wisdom behind the example is to understand that we can’t help others if we are not healthy.
As January 2016 is upon us, many are making their New Year resolutions. Will you decide this year to balance caregiving demands in a healthy manner in order to prevent burn out?
Kim Parisi, RN, DON
co-owner of Prestige Care Services