Avoiding Burnout: Where Caregivers Can Go for Help
While being a caregiver can be very rewarding, it also involves many stressors. You may feel helpless in a situation that’s out of your control, physically exhausted from demanding daily tasks, and saddened by the declining condition of your loved one. And since caregiving is often a long-term challenge, the stress it generates can be particularly damaging. If left unchecked, it can take a toll on your physical and emotional health, relationships, and state of mind, eventually leading to burnout.
At that point, it becomes hard to function—even small tasks seem challenging and looking after a loved one is unrealistic. If you’re a primary caregiver, taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. In this article, we’ll explore how to reduce the stress of caregiving and regain a sense of balance in your life.
Get to know the signs of caregiver burnout. By learning to recognize the symptoms of caregiver overload, you can take steps to deal with the problem and prevent burnout. If you’re approaching your breaking point, you can take action right away. Watch for the following symptoms:
- Anxiety, depression, and/or irritability
- Feeling tired and run down
- Difficulty relaxing
- Overreacting to minor nuisances
- General impatience
- Frequent illness
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling increasingly resentful of your loved one
- Increased reliance on alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or food
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Feelings of hopelessness and isolation
Are these common signs of overload familiar to you? If so, it’s time to put a plan of action in place.
Don’t try to go it alone. Taking on all of the responsibilities of caregiving without assistance is a surefire recipe for burnout. Here are some helpful tips to lighten your load:
- Speak up. Your friends and family aren’t going to know how you’re feeling unless you tell then. Be up front about what’s going on with you and the person that you’re caring for. If you have thoughts about how to improve the situation, share them.
- Divide up caregiving tasks. For example, one person may take care of medical responsibilities, another with finances and bills, and another with groceries and errands. Try to get as many family members, friends and neighbors involved as possible.
- Accept assistance when offered. Many times, caregivers are reluctant to take help from others, even if they could really use it. If people want to help or show their support for you, by all means, let them. Keep a list on hand of small tasks that they could easily take care of, such as picking up groceries or driving your loved one to an appointment.
- Look into respite care. Enlist friends and family who live near you to run errands or watch the patient so you can take a well-deserved break. Respite care providers can also offer short-term relief for primary caregivers. It can be arranged for just an afternoon, or for several days or weeks. Care can be provided at home, in a healthcare facility, or at an adult day center. Respite services charge by the hour or by the number of days or weeks that services are provided. While typically not covered by insurance, Medicare will cover most of the cost for up to five consecutive days of respite care in skilled nursing facility for those who are receiving hospice care. The National Respite Locator Service can help you find appropriate respite services in your local area.
- Join a caregiver support group. When you’re a caregiver, it’s easy to feel alone and misunderstood. A caregiver support group is a great way to share your troubles and find people who are going through similar experiences as you are. You’ll not only get help, but you’ll also be able to help others. It will allow you to meet some new people and make new friends. Most importantly, you’ll feel better knowing that other people are in the same situation and you’ll likely gain some invaluable knowledge, too. If you’re unable to leave the house or if transportation is an issue, online support groups are also available. To find a support group in your community, ask your doctor or hospital, or call a local organization that deals with your loved one’s health problem. To find an online support group, visit the websites of organizations dedicated to your loved one’s health issue. The Community Resource Finder, an online database from AARP and the Alzheimer’s Association, provides easy access to a variety of support groups, information and other helpful services.
- Keep caregiving it perspective. It’s easier to accept a difficult situation when there are other things in your life that are rewarding. Invest in what gives you meaning and purpose, whether it’s your family, church, a favorite hobby, or your career. Take time to focus on the positive reasons behind your caregiving choice, too. These deep, meaningful motivations can help sustain you through even the most difficult times. And if you start to feel discouraged, remind yourself that all your efforts matter. Don’t underestimate the importance of making your loved one feel safe, comfortable, and loved!
Managing the stress levels in your life is just as important as making sure your family member gets to their doctor’s appointments or takes their medication on time. No matter how demanding your caregiving responsibilities may be, there are community resources available and things you can do to help you avoid caregiver burnout. At Vaughn Greene Funeral Services, we strive to provide the best support and personal attention possible to you and your family. If we can be of service in any way, please contact us.
About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 20 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved one. For more information, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at https://vaughncgreene.com/.