Coping with Caregiver Burnout
Few roles in life are as challenging or as exhausting as the homecare of someone with a terminal disease, or someone who is at the end of his or her life. Of course, the ill person’s needs come first, so the caregiver may end up giving up free time, scheduling to accommodate their “patient,” and sometimes even quitting a job. It is a never-ending cycle of caregiver duties that include preparing meals, tending to medications, cleaning, washing, and comforting. Many emotions may rear their ugly heads, including feelings of resentment, isolation, abandonment, sadness, and anxiety. Even if the patient is dearly loved, a caregiver still must be almost superhuman to cope well. Ultimately, no matter the relationship, caregiver burnout is a real possibility.
Caregivers Need Time to Heal
Although, as a caregiver, it may seem like you can’t find time for yourself, it is essential that you do. Just as when the flight attendant instructs you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping another person, you must take care of yourself in order to have energy and emotional fortitude to care for the patient. You may have to hire someone to give you relief from your responsibilities for a few hours. You should take the time to do what brings you comfort and joy. Do you love to read, shop, or create art? Do you need to walk in nature or get some exercise? Do whatever you want to do, but get away from caregiving duties for a bit as often as you can.
Caregivers Need Help
Take support wherever you find it. There are many online forums with other people in the same position as caregivers. Share your feelings or find tips to help with your caregiving role, and you won’t feel quite so alone. There are offline groups for caregivers, often associated with hospitals, that have meetings where people can gather to vent, discuss, learn, or just be social. Many of these groups have events where you can be pampered a bit with a chair massage or indulge in some great food, so that the stress of being a caregiver doesn’t become too difficult to handle. In these groups, honesty is the focus. They are safe places to discuss caregiver burnout with others who are battling the same thing.
Caregivers Need Humor
Use humor whenever you can. Humor helps you to keep a positive attitude, and laughter helps reduce stress. Listen to a comedy routine, chat with a funny friend, and let people know that you can use a good laugh. Spend some time playing with children, if you can. People, especially kids, love to make others smile, and this is the time to call on those who love you to help lift your spirits. Your loved ones understand what a difficult role caregivers have, and probably want to help. Even joking about caregiver burnout to a trusted friend can give you some relief.
Caregivers Need Affection
Studies have shown that petting a dog or cat lowers blood pressure, provides a release of the hormones that make you happy, and gives emotional comfort.If you have your own pet, make sure you let them stay close by you to use their uncanny ability to cheer you up. If you don’t have a pet, take the time to visit friends who have pets, or even take a walk and meet your neighbor’s pets. Animals’ ability to show unconditional love may leave you feeling more upbeat.
The average time spent in a homecare caregiving role is four years. With that long of a time period, every caregiver absolutely must take care of himself or herself to be able to go the distance. Shocking statistics about stress and anxiety as a result of caring for a terminally ill loved one tell us that caregiver burnout is an important topic. If you are a caregiver for a sick loved one, don’t let your stress be a silent reality. Take care of yourself, and avoid getting burned out. Your caregiver duties won’t go away, but keep your attitude positive, and give yourself ways to continue on, without pushing yourself to exhaustion.
Everlasting Footprint encourages you to seek help and support when struggling with caregiver burnout and other problems of long-term or terminal illness. Remember, honor, cherish, and celebrate life together.