Avoid Caregiver Burnout
Being a caregiver requires us to recognize and take care of our own needs. We cannot effectively respond to others when our own unmet needs leave us exhausted. While being a caregiver to someone with a serious illness can be emotionally and physically draining, it is also very rewarding. Here are some tips to help you avoid caregiver burnout and be ready for the task of caregiving.
Know yourself. It is only by understanding our own needs, vulnerabilities and limits that we can anticipate and counteract caregiver stress. Recognize when you need help, and do not be afraid to ask for it. Know the limits and fluctuations of your physical energy. Learn to say, "I can't" to additional responsibilities during times of lower physical energy. Identify the limits of those situations you cannot handle emotionally alone. Find time for yourself and pay attention to early warning signs of excessive stress. If you ignore these signs, you can invite serious physical and emotional illness. Expressing emotions helps resolve accumulated grief. Understand when, where and with whom you may safely share feelings derived from caregiver stress. It becomes easier with practice.
Take care of yourself:
Physically: Exercise, sleep and good nutrition all play important roles in reducing the debilitating effects of stress. Make sure you don’t neglect your own health while caring for your loved one.
Emotionally and socially: Many studies have shown that the effects of stress can be decreased through social support. Develop and use your support network. You will be a better caregiver when you emotionally replenish and nurture yourself outside the duties of caregiving. Hope Hospice has many support groups for you. Check them here.
Spiritually: Taking care of a loved with a life-limiting illness inevitably provokes questions about the meaning of life and death. A system of values and beliefs can help us cope with the realities of death and provide us with a framework for seeing the value of life. Cultivate opportunities to explore your personal beliefs about the meaning of life and death.
Avoid the super person syndrome. Decide what you can and cannot accomplish and then negotiate an equitable division of labor at work and at home. Work on time alone. Don’t neglect time for yourself, and use days off to nurture yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Utilize free time. Take regular breaks during the day to replenish yourself. Relax and enjoy this time. The serious nature of our work with those who are suffering, ill and/or bereaved makes it easy to neglect our need to play, to celebrate life and our affection for others.