Being a full-time caregiver for your loved one is a taxing job. It takes a lot of energy and time to give good care, not to mention the emotional toll it takes. Caregiving is a difficult journey, and it takes a lot out of you. Because of that, many caregivers can suddenly find themselves burned out.
Caregiver burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion brought on by the stress of full-time caregiving. Avoiding caregiver burnout should be a top priority for you as a caregiver. After all, how can you give your best effort to caregiving if you aren’t in good health yourself?
Here are some ways to take care of your health and avoid burning out.
Find Other Caregivers in Your Area
Building a support network of other caregivers can be a big asset in avoiding burnout. Meeting with people who can understand and sympathize with your situation is a great outlet for your stress, and talking with people who experience similar feelings as you can help you feel less alone and isolated during your time as a caregiver.
You can meet other caregivers through online groups, Facebook pages, support meetings, or by asking medical professionals if they are aware of any type of caregiving support groups in the area. Social media and technology allows you to stay connected to your support group when you need them.
Take Respite Breaks
There aren’t regular breaks from caregiving like there are for other jobs. You don’t get weekends off, and your hours aren’t from 9am-5pm. You are constantly on the clock and need to be prepared at all hours of the day, every day. One way to regain some energy is to use a respite care service. Respite care is temporary, professional care of a dependent person that provides relief for usual caregivers.
Taking advantage of respite care helps you avoid isolating yourself, lets you stay healthy and avoid exhaustion, and allows you to stay focused and remain positive. You also don’t have to worry about the quality of care your loved one is receiving when they are at an assisted living community or other senior care center that offers respite care.
Keep an Eye on Your Health
Another important step in avoiding caregiver burnout is to keep a close eye on your own health. Remember, you can’t take care of your loved one if you aren’t doing well yourself. Staying active, exercising, and eating right are all ways to keep your health in check.
You also need to watch out for signs of stress and depression, which can signal caregiver burnout. Signs to look out for include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or empty.
- Losing interest in things that used to bring you joy
- Outbursts and sudden changes in emotion
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in regular sleep patterns
- Increased anxiety and restlessness
- Trouble thinking clearly
- Feeling extremely guilty and constantly blaming yourself
- Frequent thoughts of death or suicide
If you experience these symptoms, seek medical help. There are services dedicated to helping caregivers maintain their mental health, and you can take advantage of those services.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the stress of caregiving and burnout, so help yourself by keeping organized where you can. By staying organized, you don’t have to worry about where your loved one’s insurance papers or appointment schedules are.
Set up calendars either online, on your phone, or in paper form to organize appointments and meetings. File away paperwork in an orderly fashion that you can remember later on. You can also create daily checklists and task lists so you don’t have to worry about what you need to get done in a single day.
Organizing your life can help you feel more relaxed and confident in your role as a caregiver. It doesn’t take a lot to organize, but it can go a long way in reducing your overall stress and your likelihood of burning out.
Find Caregiving Services Near You
There are services and companies that provide caregiving assistance to people who need extra help. The National Eldercare Locator can help you find caregiving services around you. Examples of caregiving services include:
- Meal deliveries
- At-home nurses or physical therapists
- Housekeeping services
- Doing “elder-proofing” in your home with ramps and handrails
- Legal aid
- Financial counseling
Taking advantage of these services doesn’t mean you are incapable of doing these things on your own— it just means that you don’t have to do it alone. Using these services can help you avoid feeling isolated and burning out.
Accept Help from Family and Friends
Along with accepting help from caregiving services, you should also use the help offered to you by family and friends. It can be hard to admit that you can’t do everything on your own, but everyone will be better off when you do. Not only does this greatly reduce your odds of burnout, but it will make your family feel better to be able to help you as well, even in small ways. Family and friends can help with:
- Doing house and yard work
- Grocery shopping
- Driving you and your loved one to appointments
- Running errands
The last thing you want to do as a caregiver is burn out. By using these tips as a guide, you can avoid burning out and relieve some of your stress so you can be a better caregiver to your loved one.