Avoid Caregiver Burnout
Being a caregiver requires us to recognize and take care of our own needs. We cannot effectively respond to others when our own unmet needs leave us exhausted. While being a caregiver to someone with advance illness can be emotionally and physically draining, it is also very rewarding. The tips below can help you avoid caregiver burnout and be ready for the task of caregiving.
- Know yourself. It is only by understanding our own needs, vulnerabilities and limits that we can anticipate and counteract caregiver stress.
- Recognize when you need help, and do not be afraid to ask for it.
- Recognize the limits and fluctuations of your physical energy. Learn to say “I can’t” to additional responsibilities during times of lower physical energy.
- Recognize the limits of those situations you cannot handle emotionally alone. Learn to say “I need time to myself.”
- Early warning signs: Learn to recognize your own early warning signs of excessive stress. If you ignore these signs, you can invite serious physical and emotional illness.
- Express yourself. Resolving accumulated grief depends upon expressing emotions. Identify when, where and with whom you may safely ventilate feelings derived from caregiver stress. Expressing emotion becomes easier with practice.
Take care of yourself:
- Physically: Exercise, sleep, good nutrition all play important roles in reducing the debilitating effects of stress. Make sure you don’t neglect your own health while caring for your loved ones health.
- Emotionally and socially: Many studies have shown that the effects of stress can be decreased through social support; develop and use your support network. You will be a better caregiver when you emotionally replenish and nurture yourself outside the duties of caregiving. HHCRI has many support groups for you. Check them here (link to page).
- Spirituality: Caregiving for a loved one who is suffering or dying inevitably provokes questions on the meaning of life and death. For those with a religious faith, these questions include God. A system of values and beliefs can help us cope with the realities of death, and provide us with a framework for seeing the value of life. Cultivate opportunities to explore your personal beliefs about the meaning of life and death.
- Avoid the super person syndrome. Decide what you can and cannot accomplish and then negotiate an equitable division of labor at work and at home.
- Develop time alone activities. Don’t neglect private time by yourself, and use days off to nurture yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually.
- Utilize free time. Take regular breaks during the day to replenish yourself, and use days off to nurture yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually.
- Relax and enjoy yourself. The serious nature of our work with those who are suffering, dying and/or bereaved makes it easy to neglect our need to play, to celebrate life, and to celebrate our affection for others.