Avoiding Caregiver Burnout

By Gina Deney

Thirty one percent of the adult population age 20 to 75 provide informal care to a family member or friend who is ill or disabled. Caregiver burnout, a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude — from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned – can occur when caregivers don’t get the help they need, or if they try to do more than they are able, either physically or financially. Caregivers who are “burned out” may experience fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression. Many caregivers also feel guilty if they spend time on themselves rather than on their ill or elderly loved ones.

But if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else!

RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS OF STRESS. If you are experiencing irritability, feelings of resentment, loss of sleep, increased susceptibility to colds and flu, or if you feel guilty about taking time for yourself, then chances are that you need to re-evaluate your situation.

ACKNOWLEDGE AND ACCEPT THE PRESSURE YOU FEEL. It’s a normal and healthy reaction to be upset that your loved one is ill and recognize that it takes a toll on you.. Reach out to your own support network, keep a journal to help you cope, seek professional and spiritual advice if you’re overwhelmed.

TAKE A BREAK. In The Fearless Caregiver: How to Get the Best Care for Your Loved One and Still Have a Life of Your Own, author Gary Berg establishes some ground rules for caregivers. At the top of the list: time away, meaning you should participate in activities that don’t include the person you’re caring for. You need time for yourself in order to take care of others. Exercise, socialize, stay involved in activities you enjoy. It’s good for your physical and mental well-being.

ASK FOR HELP. Often people want to lend a hand, but they don’t know how. Ask them to do specific tasks. Tell a friend you could really use a home-cooked dinner on Wednesday, or have a neighbor pick up your family member’s medication from the drugstore.

TRY RESPITE CARE. Hiring someone to help can reduce the burden on the regular caregiver. It doesn’t have to be expensive — respite care is when someone comes to give you a few hours off. Your Own Home Care customizes the care they provide to suit your specific needs.

TAKE PRIDE IN WHAT YOU ARE DOING. You are providing love and support for someone – not always an easy task. Take care of yourself, and you will be better equipped to give your family member the loving care they need.

Gina Deney is president of Your Own Home In-Home Senior Care.  If you’d like more information or have questions about how to get help, please call her at 302-478-7081, email gdeney@yourownhomecare.com or visit www.yourownhomecare.com.

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