Managing Caregiver Stress and Burnout
In the United States, more than 65 million caregivers spend an average of 20 hours each week providing care for loved ones who can't fully care for themselves. While this compassionate act is emotionally rewarding it can take a toll on caregivers, leading to stress and potential burnout.
View our Take Care of the Caregiver online seminar by Barbara K. Moeller, RN, PHN (aired May 15, 2012).
Here are a few questions to ask yourself about your experience. As a caregiver, do you:
- Feel like your overall health is spiraling downward?
- Feel like the only choice you have is to provide care for your loved one?
- Neglect your own personal or physical concerns?
- Feel exhausted or depressed much of the time?
- Feel like your eating habits have changed – eating more or less than normal?
- Make adjustments to your work schedule or take significant amounts of time off from work to care for your loved one?
- Feel like the relationship with your loved one is strained – where you are increasingly impatient and frustrated?
- Feel worried about the financial commitment of caring for your loved one?
- Feel overwhelmed with your situation, but are not sure how to make it better?
If you answered yes to many of these questions, here are some tips to alleviate caregiver stress:
- Make time for yourself. While taking care of your loved one is an important part of your life, it's essential to also take care of yourself. Give yourself permission to take a break and pursue your interests and hobbies. Exercise, read and spend time with friends – whatever brings you peace and relaxation.
- Pay attention to your body. If you consistently feel tired, are unable to sleep, have a change in appetite or feel depressed, talk to your doctor. You may find that your dedication to caregiving is causing your personal health to suffer.
- Ask for help. It's common to have friends and family who would like to help with your loved one, but many are not sure what to offer. Take the initiative and ask them for what you need. Accept their assistance freely. Depending on your need, you may also want to explore professional caregiving help, which can be provided in the home, at an adult day care center or in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
- Join a caregiver's support group. Connecting with other caregivers can provide great new insights, understanding and overall stress relief.