Taking care of the caregiver: avoiding caregiver burnout
One of the main reasons family members take on the role of caregiver is because they love their aging loved ones and they want to help them with a better life and prolonged independence.
Sometimes though, the rewards of caregiving are outweighed by the stress, physical and emotional work, which invariably leads to burnout.
Some family caregivers become so wrapped up in their caregiving duties they forget about themselves. Many family members fail to realize how mentally and physically exhausting caregiving can be.
Feeling “burned out” can be dangerous to both you and your loved one.
To find out if you’re at risk of caregiver burnout, take this simple test from Elderwise.ca.
Now calculate your score: the higher your score, the greater your risk of burnout. If many of your responses are in the “often” or “daily” column, it’s safe to say that’s a red flag!
The best way to avoid caregiver burnout is to take action. Karen Henderson from the Long Term Care Network offers some great tips:
- Research and understand the disease to better understand what to expect as the condition progresses. Chronic diseases typically worsen over time and usually results in caregiving provide care over the long term.
- Plan early to find ways to support yourself and to stay healthy through diet, exercise, vitamins and supplements, yoga or meditation. Try to avoid making promises you may be unable to keep and always reserve time for yourself.
- Investigate and use respite service possibilities. Take advantage of offers of help from family, friends and community agencies. Define the help you need by making a list of tasks that others can perform when they offer to help.
- Try to put yourself in the other person’s place to understand why someone may resist care.
- Be patient with yourself; recognize that some days are going to be more difficult than others.
- Try to think of at least one good thing that happened today.
- Have at least one person you can confide in, who can give you support and to whom you can provide support as well through a mutual relationship.
- Realize that there may be a time when you will be unable to continue to care for your loved one at home and that you need not feel guilty about this.
- Learn how to be an advocate for yourself and the person for whom you care.
- If you are caring for someone with dementia, investigate residential care facilities in your area and have the paperwork ready should the time come when placement becomes a necessity.
Wendy Johnstone is a gerontologist and is the founder of Keystone Eldercare Planning. Her column runs in the Comox Valley Record every second Friday.