If you’ve taken on the task of caring for a loved one as they face illness or injury, it’s easy to get burned out. Caregiver burnout is a very real struggle in which even the most nurturing, well-intentioned caregivers can become overwhelmed and begin to experience symptoms like anxiety, depression, stress and fatigue. Fortunately, there are ways to guard against this problem, allowing you to be a happier, healthier and more effective caregiver.
Don’t Forget to Care for Yourself
Taking care of a loved one can be an all-consuming task. There are the medicine schedules, doctor’s visits, bathing and changing, taking care of the house, taking care of the shopping, taking care of the bills, and taking care of the pets (if you have them). Many caregivers feel that they don’t have the time or energy to fix a proper meal. And it’s not unusual for sleep to be interrupted by night terrors or midnight bathroom needs. And just forget about taking time to go to the gym or workout.
The reality is that if you don’t take care of yourself first, you’re sacrificing your own health in order to care for someone else’s. While this may seem the necessary or “right” thing to do at the time, in reality you’re not doing yourself or your loved one any favors. Be sure to get proper nutrition, good quality sleep, and appropriate exercise for yourself, and you’ll find you have more energy and are more able to handle the stresses of caregiving.
Running errands can be a huge demand on anyone’s time. Fortunately, today there are many options for having someone else run your errands for you. Delivery services are for more than just pizza and other take-out food. Many grocery stores now offer home delivery, or at the very least curbside pickup. Drug stores will deliver prescriptions and other medications. You can set up automatic delivery for common household items like razors, air filters and toothbrushes. You can even have medical care delivered.
That’s right, the days of the house call have returned. DispatchHealth brings comfortable healthcare to your home. Just give them a call or visit their website, and DispatchHealth will send a team of trained medical professionals to you. They’re ready to diagnose and treat common to severe illnesses and injuries on the spot. They can administer IV fluids, do blood tests, stitches, urinary tract infections, disease testing for flu or strep and more.
To ensure continuity of care, they provide a detailed report to the living facility, home health agency and/or primary care physician that requested the care. DispatchHealth is partnered with most major insurance companies and handles billing directly with those companies. They even accept Medicare and Medicaid. A visit with DispatchHealth typically costs 80-90 percent less than the average emergency room visit. If patients are uninsured, DispatchHealth accepts a flat fee of $375, which includes medications delivered, procedures performed and any lab tests obtained. So the next time you need some quick medical assistance, skip the waiting room and have urgent care delivered.
Ask for Help
Many caregivers try to handle everything themselves. Caring for an ailing, disabled or otherwise unwell friend, partner or relative can eventually be too much for even the most giving, caring and well-intentioned person to accomplish alone. If possible, ask a friend or relative to help out from time to time. It can even be something as simple as running a few errands or handling a chore or two. Choose small, simple tasks if possible, and try not to ask the same person all the time unless they have volunteered to help on a regular schedule.
Another option is to look into respite care services or home health aides in your area. These can be a lifesaver for caregivers, and often aren’t as expensive as you might assume. Whether you need just a few hours of in-home care or a short stay at a nursing facility, giving yourself a break is important and worthwhile.
Talk to Someone
For mild stress, finding a close friend to chat with can often be an immense help. Be real about the situation, and let out all of those feelings you’ve been holding in. It’s important to acknowledge and release the negative feelings as well as the positive. This can help you process them and move past them. If you’re looking for a bit more support, consider getting involved with a caregiver support group. You can seek local or online groups, depending on your needs and location. These are full of others who are going through the same stresses and situations as you are, and can often be an invaluable source of advice and help.
Finally, if you’re really struggling, it might be time to speak with a professional counselor or licensed therapist. If you can’t make the time to get away from the house for a session, many now offer online counseling or phone therapy, too.
As a caregiver, it’s easy to fall into traps of guilt or to allow yourself to shoulder the blame for situations that are simply beyond your control. If you’re caring for someone with a degenerative disease like Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis, remember that things will not stay the same and that has nothing to do with the level of care someone receives. If you are dealing with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, remember that it’s not your fault when your loved one doesn’t remember you, and it’s not their fault either.
No matter what type of illness or disability you’re dealing with, from time to time setbacks are almost certain to happen. Set realistic expectations and know your limitations. With a more sensible outlook, you’re less likely to feel like a failure when things inevitably don’t go perfectly. There’s no doubt about it: Caring for an ill or disabled loved one is a challenging task that can lead to significant stress. But we hope that these tips will help you to avoid burnout and focus on the positive, rewarding parts of your job.