As a parent or spouse advances in age, the responsibility may fall upon you to function as a primary caregiver. Though this is a responsibility that most of us would take on without a second thought, it can be an incredibly stressful and emotionally exhausting role to fill. Naturally, many people who find themselves in this situation lack formal medical training. This is why it’s so critical for caregivers to take the appropriate steps to prevent burnout. As the primary caregiver to an elderly loved one, your ability to provide compassionate and high-quality care is only as good as your ability to take care of yourself. Below are a few basic tips that can help you find this balance:
One of the best defenses you have against burnout is your own knowledge. Take the time to learn everything you can about the condition or range of conditions that your loved one is facing. Consult a primary care physician or specialist where necessary in order to improve your understanding of the patient’s symptoms, risk factors and medication instructions. The better that you understand his or her needs, the better you will be able to manage your time and responsibilities.
Tap the Support System
Remember, you are not alone in this. Don’t be afraid to look to friends, family and physicians for a helping hand, a sympathetic ear or even a shoulder to lean on. Your siblings, spouse or children can be critical in alleviating the feelings of pressure and exhaustion that sometimes come with the territory. Even if you don’t need any help with the physical and practical aspects of caring for a senior, there is nothing more valuable than the emotional support of those around you.
Sometimes, it can seem as though nobody understands what you’re going through. But there are others who have been through this, who have professional training and who are readily available to help. Ask questions and seek counsel with those who have been there before. Reach out to your local hospital or community health center in order to find a support group comprised of other caregivers. In addition to learning ways of coping with the challenges of care giving, you may find sharing your experiences with others to be highly therapeutic.
Enlist Professional Help
Once in a while, all you really need is some time away from your responsibilities. ‘Respite care’ services exist to provide you with a temporary relief from your duties. According to WebMD, respite care may be available for a few hours at a time or on a more extended basis through a senior assisted living facility. Use this service when you have other responsibilities that must be prioritized or when you simply need to press your own reset button.
You may feel like a one-person wrecking crew at times. Juggling caregiving with other professional, personal and domestic responsibilities means that you have to be ‘on’ at all times. But you need to be realistic about what you can and can’t do. When you spread yourself thin, you may find it harder to meet your caregiving responsibilities with the utmost of patience and sensitivity. Make sure that you get enough sleep, that you’re eating well and that you don’t sacrifice your own health. Put aside some personal time for reflection, relaxation and renewal.
Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself
As a caregiver, you may experience feelings of resentment, anger and frustration over your situation. This is normal. Don’t beat yourself up for having these feelings. It doesn’t mean that you care any less or are any less devoted a caregiver. Help Guide advises that you are entitled to have negative feelings as long as you don’t allow these feelings to control you. Find personal coping strategies that work for you and don’t let yourself to be overcome by guilt for the things you can’t fix. All you can do is your best.