“There are only four kinds of people in the world. Those who have been caregivers. Those who are currently caregivers. Those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.” A quote by Roslyn Carter, former First Lady of the United States as the wife of President Jimmy Carter.
According to The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP, family caregivers now encompass more than one in five Americans. The study also reveals that family caregivers are in worse health compared to five years ago.
We at the Seniors Blue Book have seen many cases of caregiver burnout. Give us a call if you or someone you know may be suffering from caregiver burnout. There are many local and national support networks for caregivers that offer ways to combat issues, provide expert advice and education, offer creative outlets or even lend an empathetic ear.
Initially, the idea of caring for someone you love may seem normal, helpful, and relatively easy. How hard could it be? But, here’s the reality: over time, continuous care takes a toll.
Caregiver burnout, otherwise known as compassion fatigue, is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion. Caregiver burnout becomes a major issue when caregivers don’t take the time they need to fully recharge and care for themselves. It’s common for caregivers to feel guilty spending time on themselves rather than with ill or elderly loved ones, but as they continue to put the needs of others before their own, their ability to care for themselves and the people they work with becomes affected.
It’s also not uncommon for caregivers to work multiple jobs and offer care for different families. It’s easy to see how with a full schedule and the needs of their own family, a caregiver’s self-care ultimately takes a backseat.
COMMON SIGNS OF CAREGIVER BURNOUT CAN INCLUDE:
Lack of energy
Changes in eating habits
Weight loss or weight gain
Feelings of hopelessness
Losing interest in things you used to enjoy
Neglecting your own physical & emotional needs
Feeling as though caregiving is controlling your life
Becoming impatient, irritable, or argumentative
Anxiety about the future
Depression or mood swings
IF ANY OF THESE SOUND FAMILIAR, HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR CAREGIVERS TO AVOID BURNOUT:
Ask for help and take people up on it. Asking for help does not make you a bad caregiver. Let go of the idea that one person has to do it all. We are all meant to rest, recharge our batteries, and enjoy a break from work at the end of the day. When people offer to lend a hand, let them.
Delegate tasks to others. Whether it’s cooking dinner twice a week for you or following through and arriving on-time, be direct and let people know specifically how they can show up for you.
Stay invested in your own well-being. Eating healthy, staying active, and getting enough sleep are the basic foundations of well-being. They’re also the building blocks of your immune system, which is important so you can stay healthy and avoid getting sick. Spending time outdoors in nature can be very therapeutic.
Pamper yourself when you can. Caregiving is tough work. Make an opportunity to wind down at the end of the day with a long bath, or put a massage on your calendar. Take time for yourself by writing in a journal, gardening or meditating. Find what connects you back to your center and stay faithful to those practices.
Know when it’s time to call in the professionals. Just because you’ve committed to caring for a parent or senior loved one doesn’t mean you can’t take a break. Oftentimes, home care agencies get called in when caregivers reach a breaking point, but with home care it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Depending on what you need, home care agencies offer between one and 24 hours of service, plus live-in care. Another option is Respite Care which is short-term care, lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, that can be provided at a local senior living community or even in the home. Adult daycare is another option, which is a service that allows family caregivers to “recharge” with the knowledge that their loved one is safe and sound.
Some resources available for Caregivers:
Hope Grows www.hopegrows.net 412-369-4673
National Alliance for Caregiving – www.caregiving.org 301-718-8444
Caregiver Action Network www.caregiveraction.org
Family Caregiver Alliance www.caregiver.org
Pennsylvania Long Term Care Hotline: 1-866-286-3636
Pennsylvania Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) – www.aging.pa.gov/
If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of caregiver burnout, please share these ideas with them and reach out to us at Seniors Blue Book at 412-551-5951 if we can ever be of assistance. Our guides are free to the community and can be found at your local Walgreens, or visit www.SeniorsBlueBook.com or call us to request your free copy. We are always happy to help!
This article was written by Apryl Garrett, Publisher of the Seniors Blue Book of Greater Pittsburgh. Reach Apryl at 412-551-5951 or at Apryl@SeniorsBlueBook.com or visit www.SeniorsBlueBook.com/local/pittsburgh for additional resources and information.