Caring for the people you love certainly is rewarding. The time we share with our loved ones is always valuable. But, that doesn’t mean that taking care of a loved one is a task that comes without challenges. One of the biggest battles you will face as a caregiver is this: burnout.
Caregiver burnout – can you relate to that phrase? Often, when we try to take care of others, we neglect our own needs. This is the key: you need to learn that it’s okay to take time for yourself. This may sound selfish, but it’s far from the truth. If you can prevent yourself from burning out, you will be able to provide the best possible care for those you love.
The five rules of avoiding caregiver burnout:
1. Don’t try to do it alone
There is no reason to fly solo on this one. You need the support of family and friends to help you get things done. If you are a mom taking care of your parents, you may need to sit your own family down and explain to them how they can help. Start by making a list of your daily tasks – both for your family and for your loved one. Then, delegate pieces of your workload. The key is to be open to accepting help when you need it.
If you live nearby mom and dad, but your siblings don’t, ask them to come for a week to take care of them. Or let your sibling pay for a caregiver to come and sit with them for an afternoon while you spend time with your spouse and children. Even though your siblings may be far away, they should also play a role in caring for your parents.
2. Consider getting professional help
You are not always going to be capable of taking care of every single one of your parent’s needs. Hiring at-home care doesn’t mean that you’re giving up, or don’t care about your loved one. It’s okay to let go of certain tasks to help you free up your schedule. Things like driving your loved one to doctor’s visits, cleaning their home, making them meals, caring for their pets, getting their medication – or simply sitting down with them for the afternoon and keeping them company. You will be able to spend more quality time with your loved one, and have a more flexible schedule.
3. Don’t quit your job
Elder care expert and author Barbara McVicker highly cautions against walking out of the office to take care of a loved one. In doing so, you put your own retirement and family at risk. Instead, try to work for an understanding employer so that you can still drive your parent to their doctor’s appointment during your lunch break and take calls from nurses or doctors throughout the day. Quitting your job may sound like a good idea in the short-term, but in practice it can have long-term negative effects. And, even if you decide to become a full-time caregiver, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t susceptible to burning out. Caregiver burnout applies to everyone!
4. Do the things you love
Creative outlets allow rejuvenation and enjoyment. Perhaps for you it’s scrapbooking, drawing, solving word problems, gardening, yoga, running, baking or making music. Whatever it is, discover what you love and make sure to pencil it in!
5. Learn to say no
Let’s be honest, nobody is super-human. You have 24 hours in the day – just like everyone else – and it’s perfectly fine to say no when you need to. Stretch yourself too thin, and your children, spouse, social life, and work performance can begin to suffer.
Caregiving is a huge task and there may come a time when you can no longer care for your loved one. Fortunately, there are places to go to help you care for the people in your life! Ask for help, find a comfortable balance that works for your schedule and your family, and know that your loved one appreciates every moment you spend helping them.