10 Tips To Prevent Caregiver Burnout
According to an AARP report, nearly 48 million Americans are caregivers for an adult family member or friend. If you count yourself among the nation’s caregivers, you know the experience can be incredibly rewarding. It can also be stressful, especially if your loved one has dementia or needs around-the-clock care. Unfortunately, the strain can exhaust even the most committed of caregivers, leading to caregiver burnout.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
When caregivers don’t get the help they need, or when they try to do more than they’re able, they can enter a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion, also known as caregiver burnout. You may be so focused on your responsibilities that you don’t notice the shift in how you’re feeling at first—in fact, family and friends may recognize the changes before you do. But certain symptoms can alert you that it’s time to devote some attention to your own well-being as well as your loved one’s. Here’s what to watch for:
- A short fuse. You may feel irritable or frustrated with your loved one or other people in your life.
- Withdrawal. You may not have the energy or desire to socialize or take part in activities you once enjoyed.
- Getting sick often and not fully recovering. Caregiving stress can lower your immune response. Or you may have frequent headaches, bodily pain or other physical problems.
- Changes in sleep patterns. You may find yourself sleeping more or less than normal, or feeling unusually fatigued.
- Mood disturbances. Anxiety, depression or feelings of sadness may arise.
- Inability to concentrate. It may be difficult to complete familiar tasks, or you may forget appointments.
- Changes in appetite or weight. You may gain or lose weight.
- Unhealthy behaviors. Smoking, drinking, or using drugs can become unhealthy coping mechanisms.
If you’re experiencing any of these signs, ask for help. Talk with someone you trust about how you feel. And reach out to caregiver support groups at your local church, community center, government agencies such as Eldercare, the Alzheimer’s Association, or Artis Senior Living caregiver events.
10 Tips Help Caregivers Avoid Burnout
Follow our tips to help you cope with the challenges of caregiving, find more balance in your life, and prevent caregiver burnout.
1. Educate Yourself
The more you know about your loved one’s condition, the better you’ll be able to care for them. Ask health professionals as many questions as you need to during appointments. Make use of educational resources available through the Alzheimer’s Association or other national organizations.
2. Set Reasonable Expectations
It’s important to manage your expectations regarding your caregiving role. Recognize that there are no perfect caregivers, and there will naturally be limits to the amount of time and energy you can devote to your loved one’s care.
Notice if you expect your efforts to have a positive effect on your loved one. In reality, there will be good days and bad days, and some days you may feel underappreciated or taken for granted. If so, remind yourself that it’s the condition—not your loved one—that’s to blame.
3. Establish a Support System
While you may be the primary caregiver for your loved one, make sure you have a team to help support you. Finding people you can cry to and laugh with can help you cope with the everyday stress that comes with this tough job. Join a caregiver support group where you can share your experiences, reduce feelings of isolation, and locate helpful resources.
4. Ask for—and Accept—Help
The best way to avoid burnout is to ask for help and accept it when offered. Try to get as many family members involved as possible. Friends often want to help, but don’t know what you need or how you’re feeling. Keep a list of tasks you’d like help with, especially the ones you find most challenging. That way, when a friend asks how they can help, you’ll have a specific suggestion, such as picking up groceries or sitting with your loved one while you run errands.
5. Set Aside Time for Yourself
It’s easy to get so caught up in your loved one’s needs that you forget about your own. But setting aside time to relax and recharge, even if it’s just an hour or two, will help prevent exhaustion.
At the same time, be easy on yourself. If you’re adding self-care to an already overwhelming to-do list, you may feel even more stressed out. Remind yourself that even 5 minutes of mindful breathing or laughing over a funny video can be restorative.
6. Practice Healthy Living
Taking care of your health isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity for caregivers. You’re much more capable of helping others when you eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.
Being social is an important part of healthy living, too. Spending time with friends can help sustain you and keep you positive. Simply sharing what you’re going through can be cathartic. If you can get out of the house, great. But if it’s difficult to leave, invite friends over for coffee or dinner.
7. Develop New Tools for Coping
Caregiving can be an emotional roller coaster. If possible, talk with a professional. Most therapists, social workers, and clergy members are trained to counsel individuals dealing with a wide range of physical and emotional issues.
Also strive to develop an active coping strategy: When problems arise, face them by drawing upon your internal resources—your ability to gather necessary information, reach out for help, change your routine. Active coping helps you overcome a sense of powerlessness and supports your resilience.
8. Become a List-Maker
The simple habit of creating a daily to-do list can have surprising benefits:
- Writing down the day’s tasks frees you from the burden of keeping up with a mental checklist of the day’s tasks.
- There’s a sense of accomplishment when you can cross tasks off your list—you have proof that you’re getting things done.
- When you’re ready to delegate, you can more easily hand off tasks.
- If your days are becoming stressful, check your list and prioritize what’s most important.
9. Allow for Caregiving Holidays
Take some time away. You’ll be a better caregiver to your loved one if you do so. Enlist friends and family to help so you can take a break. Or look for respite care at a senior living community.
10. Research Your Options for Full-Time Care
Acknowledge that there may come a time when your family member will need more services and care than you can provide at home. In a Memory Care community, your loved one will receive round-the-clock support in a safe, calming environment, with care partners trained to manage dementia symptoms in a kind, compassionate manner.
Learn More About Your Care Options at Artis Senior Living
At Artis Senior Living, we’re here to help you determine the best way forward for your loved one. We work with caregivers to provide caregiver support and to help you navigate care options. Or, if your loved one is ready for 24/7 support, our Memory Care communities provide holistic, personalized care in a comfortable setting designed to foster residents’ engagement. Contact us to learn more, attend one of our educational events for caregivers, or find an Artis community near you.