If you are a caregiver and feel frustrated and overwhelmed, you are certainly not alone. In fact, thirty-six percent of family caregivers characterize their situation as highly stressful, according to the “Caregiving in the U.S. 2020” report from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC).
Maybe the demands might be too much to take on and/or you have lost patience and energy, and now feel guilty. Despite the reasons, the heavy emotions that come along with the role of caretaker can take a real toll. Caregiver “burn out” simply put is the breaking point of mental and emotional exhaustion.
The most important thing to remember is that if you are being relied on to care for someone, you must not forget to care for yourself. If you do experience burnout, it can cause you to make mistakes that could endanger a loved one. So, if you don’t make yourself a priority, nobody benefits.
That’s why it’s so important that you recognize the signs of burn outearly— so you can put steps in place to help you cope.
Recognize the signs of burn out such as anger, stress, exhaustion, irritability, sleeplessness, anxiety or social withdrawal. If you begin to experience these emotions, here are steps you can follow to avoid burnout:
Set expectations: You are one person and can only handle so much responsibility— so it’s time to accept that you can’t do it all. Try setting realistic expectations and prioritize the list of tasks to be done. Establish a routine for your loved one so both of you know what to expect. Feel free to say “no” when certain tasks are not doable or reset the time frame to make it work for you.
Make self-care a priority. At the end of the day, you need to release those heavy emotions somehow. Regular exercise can help you with this, such as yoga, dancing, cycling or hiking. Releasing those feelings with conversations and venting to friends and family can help a great deal as well, in addition to joining support groups. Journaling can be a great way to express yourself to get those feelings out of your mind and on paper instead. And don’t forget to take a break, maybe its one weekday or every other weekend that you have a family member fill in and only to contact you if there is an emergency.
Streamline communication. A stressful part of caring for a loved one can be all of the constant questions from the family. You can find yourself answering the same questions repeatedly while also dealing with other people’s emotions. You may consider writing an email or sending a group text once a week to everyone to avoid the phone calls and questions. Or there are certain websites to consider that allow you to communicate with a group and update them like CaringBridge, PostHope or MyLife Line (keeping privacy as a priority).
Incorporate a positive attitude. At times, it might be tough to see the silver lining but it’s important to celebrate the small victories and stay positive for you and your loved one. Caregiving can be a thankless job so don’t be afraid to give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
If you are struggling and/or need information on specific topics, there are many caregiver resources available, click here for more information. You might also find helpful tips reading this article Caregiving: 4 Ways to Manage and Cope.
Inter Valley Health Plan also offers online classes for caregivers. For information about class times, visit: https://www.ivhp.com/vitality