Whether you’re dedicating your time to someone in your family or are a professional caregiver, caregiving can be stressful. “Caregiver burnout” is a real issue, and many caregivers hit the wall after months or years of dedicating themselves to another person’s care. It’s extremely important for caregivers to be able to recognize and identify the challenges that lead to burnout. And it’s equally important to learn strategies to cope with and combat the challenges of being a caregiver, so that you can continue to give care at all.
Specific Caregiver Stress Levels and Stressors
If you’re just embarking on caregiving, you may feel a sense of “I’ve got this,” or “How bad can it be?” Depending on the amount of care a disabled or elderly person may need, caregiving takes not just a physical toll, but also an emotional and mental toll, particularly if someone close to you is in poor health. There are many challenges of being a caregiver.
Some specific caregiver stress points include:
- Time management: There are many challenges in caring for the elderly, and this is at the top of the list. It can be incredibly difficult to take care of yourself and your own family (such as your children) when much of your attention is directed elsewhere. If possible, try to write out a weekly time plan and adhere to it.
- Taking care of your own self: Self care is one of the main challenges of being a caregiver. Beyond scheduling “me” time (spa, gym, date night, weekend getaway), you have to remember to put your own health first. You can’t take care of someone else if you’re emotionally or physically sick.
The reality of depression: The fact is, many caregivers hit caregiver burnout because they’re depressed, and there isn’t always a lot of caregiver support out there. Just as if you broke a leg or had a cold that wouldn’t go away, make an appointment to see your doctor if you feel symptoms of depression, or have symptoms that are worsening. Don’t be afraid to ask for help yourself.
How to Avoid Caregiver Burnout
You may have all of the best intentions of making weekly schedules and allowing time for yourself, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen, and that’s okay. There are still steps you can take to avoid burnout,
Try to get as much sleep as possible. Getting enough sleep is one of the many challenges of being a caregiver, and it should be one of your top priorities. Even if you find yourself giving up some “fun” things to catch up on sleep, your body will thank you. And with a good night’s sleep, you’ll have plenty of time and energy for fun things later on.
Try meditation or find ways to relax. You may have caregiver stress ranging from financial problems to sadness over seeing a loved one very ill. Realities like these can disquiet the mind and compound any existing anxiety or depression. The problem itself may not go away, but how you look at the problem can be altered. In addition to finding caregiver support groups in your area, it’s also a great idea to find a group that practices mindfulness and meditation (or both).
Look for support. One of the many challenges of being a caregiver is going it alone. Right now, you may be the sole person providing the majority of support for your family, and that means you will need support, as well. Look for caregiver support groups in your area. If you come up empty-handed, look for social media or other online groups, so you have a private place to vent and speak your mind.
Caregiver burnout can happen to anyone, whether you’re a professional or you’re caring for a member of your family. But, it’s also good to remember that a separate challenge of caregiving is going through all the stages of grief. As you find yourself experiencing denial or anger, just remember that it’s okay to feel these feelings, and it is completely normal to go through the process. There are many challenges of being a caregiver, but many rewards as well.
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