Avoid Burnout: Care for the Caregivers
Initially, caregiving most often is provided by family members. Family caregivers provide care day and night, over weekends and on demand. Caregiving can include personal care, assistance with mobility in the home, transportation, housework, and grocery shopping, along with looking after other family members’ needs. Caregivers are often employed outside the home and may be the primary source of household income which adds even more demands, responsibilities and stress. The family caregiver — spouse, partner, adult child, parent, brother, sister — needs acknowledgement and support in the process of starting and maintaining the care-providing relationship.
Caregiver burnout can be the result of a lack of a conscious plan of self-care. How do you know if you are burning out? Some symptoms of caregiver burnout are:
- Social withdrawal
- Inability to concentrate or relax
- Inability to sleep
- Lack of appetite
A CAREGIVER’S BILL OF RIGHTS contains some important affirmations for caregivers:
- I have the right to take care of myself. This is not an act of selfishness. It will give me the ability to take better care of my loved one.
- I have the right to seek help from others even though my loved one may object. I recognize the limits of my own endurance and strength.
- I have the right to maintain facets of my own life that do not include the person I care for just as I would if he or she were healthy. I know that I do everything that I reasonably can do for this person and I have the right to do some things for just myself.
- I have the right to get angry, be depressed, and express difficult feelings occasionally.
- I have the right to reject any attempt by my loved one (either consciously or unconsciously) to manipulate me through guilt or anger.
- I have the right to receive considerations, affection, forgiveness, and acceptance for what I do for my loved one as I offer these attributes in return.
- I have the right to take pride in what I am accomplishing and to applaud the courage it has taken to meet the needs of my loved one.
- I have the right to protect my individuality and my right to make a life for myself that will sustain me in times when my loved one no longer needs my full-time help.
- I have the right to expect and demand that as new strides are made in finding resources to aid physically and mentally impaired older persons in our country, similar strides will be made toward aiding and supporting caregivers.
(Reprinted with permission from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
Other Caregiving Tips and Hints
- Ask for Help. Have a “wish list” available when people ask what they can do to help you. Accept help when it is offered. Recognize the limits of your own endurance and strength and help your loved one accept care from others.
- Be Aware of Depression. Depression can strike anyone and caregivers are especially vulnerable. Be aware of the early signs of depression. See your healthcare professional if you think you are becoming depressed.
- Value Yourself. Recognize the important and good job you are doing and realize how valuable you are. Caregiving is a never-ending job and perfection is an unrealistic goal.
- Manage Your Stress. Strengthen your coping and stress management skills by communicating your feelings and needs, setting limits and making decisions to do things for yourself. Seek professional counseling, as needed. Set limits and expectations with your loved one, family and friends. Physical exercise, creative activities, humor and social/family events are effective strategies for countering caregiver stress.
- Educate Yourself. Knowledge is empowering. Get as much information about ALS you loved one’s condition as you can. The more you know, the better prepared you will be in providing care and support. Become an advocate for your loved one and for yourself.
- Know You Are More Than a Caregiver. Make the effort to retain the relationship you have had with your loved one – aside from your role as caregiver. This will help you in coping with the multitude of changes family caregiving poses.
- Talk to Other Caregivers. Caregivers who share resources and their own personal experiences report less stress and fewer problems. Find and join a caregiver support group. You can also talk to other caregivers via online forums such as www.thefamilycaregiver.org and www.caregiver.com.
- Utilize Assistance Programs. Take advantage of local, state and federal programs that support and assist caregivers.
Help from Dakota Travel Nurse Home Care
We’ve met many family caregivers who are on the verge of burn out. Sometimes they ask us if we offer respite care or other forms of help. Sometimes a friend or family member can see the need to ease the primary caregiver’s load and will check with us to see what can be done to help. Because Dakota Travel Nurse Home Care does offer respite care, we have learned from first-hand experience what a positive difference just short breaks in an otherwise demanding schedule can make.
We also refer people who qualify to the North Dakota Family Caregiver Support Program. Click on the link to learn all about it. Or get pertinent details from this Fact Sheet. Federally funded under the Older Americans Act, this program offers help to caregivers who are caring for an adult age 60 or older, or for caregivers age 60 years or older who are caring for grandchildren or other young relatives who are age 18 or younger. Services are provided at no cost to those who qualify.
The National Family Caregiver’s Association has also compiled state-by-state statistics on the economic impact of family caregiving. The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP have released “Caregiving in the US.” The research report and supporting documents are available on the Alliance website.
Some Associations like the ALS Association offer respite care for family caregivers. See our previous blog on caring for patients with ALS disease. ALSA has a Minnesota/North Dakota/South Dakota chapter. They offer respite services and/or information on respite care resources in your area. DTN Home Care is recommended by them. Call us today at 701.663.5373 for a free, in-home consultation.
Maintain your ability to be a caregiver. As they say on an airplane, “Take care of yourself first so you will be able to take care of your loved ones.”