Margot G. Birke
What Is Caregiver Burnout – And How to Avoid It
There is no way to sugar-coat it: Caregiving for an elderly or disabled loved one is hard work. No one can be fully prepared for every challenge caregiving brings. However, for many older individuals having a loved one take care of them is their best – or only – option.
Caring for another can be very rewarding and allow your loved one remain at home. BUT it is important not to let yourself “burn out.” How does that happen?
Caregiving involves physical, emotional, and financial challenges to the caregiver. It often involves sacrifices, restrictions, and competing responsibilities. Left unchecked, these things can isolate a caregiver, compromise relationships, threaten job opportunities, and lead to mounting anger, frustration, guilt, anxiety, depression, and stress… ultimately culminating in a type of exhaustion that is called caregiver burnout.
Caregivers can do only so much as individuals. Allow yourself grace, time to adapt to your new circumstances, and the freedom to seek help. Consider the following strategies for avoiding caregiver burnout:
Educate yourself about your loved one’s condition. Avoid taking his or her difficult behaviors personally, knowing that they are just symptoms of the disorder.
Allow him or her to make their own decisions and care for themselves whenever possible, even if that means something won’t be done “perfectly.”
Ask for help from other family members, friends, and neighbors when you need it, but be reasonable about the amount and type of care they can provide.
Share your feelings and experiences with others. Seeking a support group may allow you to express your true feelings without the associated guilt or shame you may feel at sharing these things with family or friends.
Prioritize your own health, both physically and emotionally. Eat well, get plenty of rest, and schedule down time for yourself to do activities you enjoy.
Obtain information about your loved one’s financial resources and do not hesitate to use them toward the individual’s care. Avoid using your own personal finances whenever possible, and instead make use of government programs to pay for their care. This is where being appointed as your loved one’s attorney-in-fact under a Durable Power of Attorney gives you the authority to access his or her assets for their care.
Consider day care or respite care to allow you time to rejuvenate and to provide the individual with needed socialization. Do this before you get too overwhelmed.
Honestly evaluate whether an assisted living facility or nursing home would be the best option for your loved one. Remember to seek advice from a qualified professional such as an Elder Law Attorney before making this transition.