The demands of being a caregiver for a loved one can take their toll without the right outlets and coping mechanisms. “What I tell caregivers is that it’s really important to take care of you so that there’s some of you left to take care of someone else,” said Pnina Rothenberg, MS, OTR/L, an occupational therapist at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital. “To spend 24 hours a day caring for somebody can be a lot. It’s hard.”
SEVERAL FACTORS CAN CONTRIBUTE TO PHYSICAL, MENTAL, AND EMOTIONAL EXHAUSTION FROM CAREGIVING:
- Unreasonable demands or unrealistic expectations
- Frustrations over lack of money, help, resources, and/or caregiver skills
- Less social (or alone) time and freedom
Here are 4 tips for avoiding caregiver burnout:
- LOOK INTO RESPITE CARE AND ADULT DAYCARE OPTIONS IN YOUR COMMUNITY.
Offering temporary relief for primary caregivers, respite care can be provided for your loved one at home or an adult daycare center for an afternoon or up to several weeks. This can free you up to run errands or to relax and recharge. The ARCH National Respite Locator Service (www.archrespite.org/respitelo cator) can provide details about resources near you.
“Sometimes religious organizations or affiliations have volunteers who may be able to come and hang out with your loved one for an hour or two,” Rothenberg said.
- DON’T BE HARD ON YOURSELF FOR WANTING/NEEDING A BREAK EVEN FOR THE LITTLE THINGS.
Even parents reach a point where they need a little time to themselves away from the kids. “But for some reason, when the one you’re caregiving for is older than you instead of younger than you, it has a different feel to it, which it shouldn’t. It’s the same thing,” Rothenberg said. “You can’t be with that person all day and give the same kind of energy and care and patience.”
Often, caregivers feel guilty about taking a breather from their responsibilities. But look at your personal time as a necessity and not a luxury. And it doesn’t always have to be an extended break or getaway. “Something that’s going to pamper you a teeny bit and doesn’t have to take hours and hours makes a big difference,” Rothenberg said.
- MAKE YOUR HEALTH A PRIORITY.
Caregivers can become so busy tending to others that they neglect their own health. Irritability, feelings of self-harm, withdrawal, and other symptoms likened to depression; changes in weight and/or appetite; getting sick more often; and changes in sleep patterns are common symptoms of caregiver burnout.
Taking care of you, Rothenberg said, includes eating right, exercising regularly, and getting good sleep. Staying on top of your own doctor appointments is also important.
“That’s not to say you should focus solely on your health-related activities instead of other fun and relaxing leisure activities in your free time.” Rothenberg adds. “They’re both really important, and it’s important to make both fit in.”
- JOIN A CAREGIVER SUPPORT GROUP.
It is normal as a caregiver to feel a range of emotions, specifically resentment and guilt. Accept your feelings and don’t keep them bottled up.
It’s good to talk about your feelings and frustrations with someone you can trust—a friend, co-worker, neighbor, therapist, social worker, or clergy member. Joining a caregiver support group is an opportunity to connect with and share experiences with others in a similar situation who can help you cope with feelings of frustration and isolation and offer additional resources and ways of coping.
This article was adapted from information provided by LifeBridge Health.