7 Tips for Burned Out Family Caregivers
I took some time off to deal with… I could fill in the blank, but it would take way too long.
Life has been a bit crazy. I am sure everyone’s life is, so the good news is I am officially normal (kind of). But, let me tell you, I personally have a new appreciation for a few things that I will be writing about in the coming months. This will be part therapy for me, and part searching for answers and hopefully it will help someone else.
My second mother, some would call her my mother-in-law, just died. I say my second mother, because she was an amazing, amazing woman. Since my own mother passed away quite a few years ago, I have looked at her as my mom, for real. That whole thing – watching her go from well, to sick, to hospice, to the funeral home and soon to a little ceramic vase is really difficult. I have been through this before, but it was particularly heart wrenching this time.
With this post, I want to take a second to heap praises on caregivers. Having just gone through what my wife, her sisters and I went through, I have an appreciation for anyone that sacrifices himself or herself for a loved one. We all went through this, but my second sister (sister-in-law) was the one that really gave her all. I have always loved her, but somewhere in the middle of this whole thing, I came to love her more deeply than ever before.
There are hardly words to express what people like my sister go through. Maybe you have had to take care of a mother, father, aunt, grandmother or child? This is a job that often goes unrecognized, unappreciated and undervalued. But, without their commitment, your loved ones or mine, would not be able to survive or live comfortably during a very difficult time. If you have ever had to take care of someone, even for a little while, you understand fully what I am talking about.
WebMD describes a condition, common to caregivers called “burnout.” If that term could ever be used in greater context, it is for the family members that take care of loved ones that are ill.
The Affects of Being a Caregiver
It can be tough caring for a loved one. Here are some stats on the affects of family care giving on caregivers:
- As of 10 years ago, more than 50 million people provided care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend. Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Family caregivers stress can take as much as 10 years off of a caregiver’s life. Source: Economic Value of Informal Care giving
- Employees that care for their loved ones can cost businesses $34 billion each year. Source: Metlife Mature Market Institutes
Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude — from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned. Burnout can occur when caregivers don’t get the help they need, or if they try to do more than they are able.
If you are in the middle of dealing with an illness with a loved one, here are a few tips (fromWebMD) you can take to help prevent burnout and still be able to help:
- TRUST – Find someone you trust — like a friend, co-worker, or neighbor — to talk to about your feelings and frustrations.
- BE REALISTIC – While what you are doing is appreciated and many times vitally needed, you do not have to go it alone. Evaluate the situation often and if you need help, for God’s sake get help.
- TAKING CARE OF YOU IS NOT A LUXURY – When you are in the midst of caring for someone else, it is easy to loose track of yourself and what you might need. Remember that it is vital to take care of yourself, while you take care of the family member.
- GET PROFESSIONAL HELP – While there may be an abundance of people providing services, care and equipment for your loved one, make sure you set aside time to talk to your pastor, a therapist or counselor for you.
- KNOW YOUR LOVED ONE’S ILLNESS – Most healthcare professionals do a wonderful job, but it always helps to have someone able to ask questions and look out for the sick loved one.
- STAY HEALTHY – Stay healthy by eating right and getting plenty of exercise and sleep.
Have you ever had to take care of a loved one and deal with the day-to-day at the same time? How did you cope? Did you get the support you wanted or needed?
Word reference: Isaiah 26:3