Outside the working world, those most prone to burnout are caregivers. Caregivers are unpaid workers who devote themselves to the care a chronically ill or disabled person. The constant stress of caregiving can lead to burnout and damage both physical and mental help.
Fortunately, there are resources to support caregivers.
What is a Caregiver?
A caregiver is a person who devotes themselves to help another person in need. Typically, the patients who require care have conditions such as cancer or dementia that prevent them from performing activities of daily living.
Caregivers provide support by doing grocery shopping and cooking, paying bills, giving medicine, assisting with bathing, using the toilet, dressing and eating.
What is Caregiver Stress?
Caregiver stress is the emotional and physical strain that caregiving causes and it may take many forms. Caregiver stress can cause depression and anxiety, and long term medical issues. Caregivers can be more susceptible to illnesses, have slower wound healing, as well as be at a higher risk for mental decline.
Those suffering caregiver stress may feel:
- Frustrated and angry
- Guilty, because they do not feel the care they provide is good enough.
- Lonely because caregiving has impacted social life.
- Tired all the time.
- Easily irritable or angered
- Constantly worried
- Physically ill, with frequent complaints like headaches, aches, and other problems
How To Prevent or Relieve Caregiver Stress:
Don't dismiss feelings as "just stress" as caregiver stress can cause future problems down the line.
See if your local hospital has classes to teach caregivers to cope with the demands of caregiving for a person with a specific illness.
Find out -and use - caregiving resources within your community.
Stay in touch with family and friends.
Join a support group for caregivers in your situation - this is a way to make friends and pick up caregiving tips and share your stories.
Educate yourself about your loved one's condition, and talk with your loved one's medical team.
Be open to assistive and adaptive technologies that may help your loved one regain some independence.
Don't be afraid to ask family members for financial help if necessary.
Ask for - and accept - help. Keep a running list of ways others can help and when help is offered, give specific manners in which they can help.
Similarly, when people offer to help, say "YES!". Let them take care of you if you are not able to let them care for your loved one.
Identify things that may be changed and those which cannot.
Set realistic goals and break larger tasks down to smaller steps.
Try to be healthy yourself - go to regular doctor appointments, eat well, and get enough sleep.
Ask the doctors office if they have any ideas for community support resources.
Remember, there are no "perfect caregivers."
Caregiving is a job - you've earned a break. Give yourself a respite.
Be alert for signs of depression, and ask for help if you feel depressed or overwhelmed.
Say no to any requests that may be draining.
Listen to your gut; trust your instincts.
Caregivers do many physical things - lifting, bathing, etc. Be kind to your back - learn proper lifting techniques, and look into assistive technologies and devices.
It is okay to grieve the situation; you've lost something, too.
Stand up for your rights as a caregiver. You are a caregiver, not a doormat or a servant.
Write a post for Band Back Together. Connect with a greater community, and know that "we are none of us alone".
How Do I Take A Break?
In-home Respite Care. Someone will come into your house to provide care for your loved one while you take a break. This can range from companionship to nursing services.
Adult Daycare Centers - many local churches or community centers provide daycare centers for the elderly and children. During the day, these groups meet together and share activities.
Short-Term Nursing Homes can be used for occasional nursing care while you are out of town for a couple of weeks.
Day Hospitals - some hospitals provide medical care for patients during the daytime and the patient returns home at night.
Administration on Aging - information about age and aging including links to local programs to aid elders and their caregivers.
US National Respite Locator - helps parents, family caregivers, and professionals find respite services in their state and local area to match their specific needs
National Family Caregivers Association - educates, supports, empowers and speaks up for the more than 65 million Americans who care for loved ones with a chronic illness or disability or the frailties of old age
Eldercare Locator is a nationwide service that connects older Americans and their caregivers with information on senior services. From the US Administration on Aging.
Benefits Check-Up - Help finding extra benefits you may otherwise be missing. From the National Council on Aging.
Family Caregiver Alliance - links and information aimed specifically at caregivers.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services - comprehensive lists of services available put together by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Strength for Caring - Articles for caregivers. Great site.
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Foundation is the charitable division of the AARP. It provides information for how to set up a caregiving plan for your loved one.
Medicare.gov has a section specifically geared towards caregivers.