If you're a caregiver, keeping up with your loved one's needs can be overwhelming. There's so much to do: scheduling doctors' appointments, maintaining medication logs, making meals, doing laundry, helping with dozens of logistical details and being on-call 24/7 just in case. And while being a caregiver can be rewarding, it’s also exhausting.
Signs of Caregiver Burnout
Most caregivers experience high levels of stress, whether they're caring for children with serious conditions or elderly parents or a loved one with a debilitating illness. And while it may seem natural to focus all of your energy toward helping your loved one during a crisis or short-term situation, neglecting your needs over time will catch up with you. It can also affect your loved one – when the stress takes a toll on your well-being, it can be difficult to provide care.
Many caregivers experience burnout, which includes signs such as:
Changes in eating or sleeping (more or less)
Increased anger and irritability
Increased alcohol consumption or drug use
Feelings of hopelessness, isolation or resentment
Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
Lack of energy to do new things
Neglect or rough treatment of your loved one
Ways To Reduce Caregiver Stress
There are multiple ways to lower stress, from scaling back your responsibilities to making self-care a priority to getting the emotional support you need. Learn how you can make caregiving easier:
#1: Lessen Your Workload
The top priority in alleviating caregiver stress is cutting back your to-do list. You can accomplish this in a few ways, such as:
Ask family to help with caregiving tasks
Dont be shy about asking family and friends for assistance helping your loved one. Most people want to help but aren't sure what to do. Make a list of things others can do and let them choose what tasks to take on.
Local friends and family can:
Pick up prescriptions
Mow the lawn
People who live farther away can:
Order groceries online
Send pre-made meals
Make phone calls to insurance companies
Research assisted living facilities
Consider paid assistance and a home health aide
If you're financially able, paying for household services and a home health aide can make a huge difference in your workload. You can:
Drop clothes off at a laundry service
Get a meal delivery subscription (prepped or fully cooked meals arrive on the same day every week)
Hire a housekeeper and gardener
Home health aides have varying credentials and assist your loved one for a certain number of hours per week, depending on your needs. A home health aide can help your loved one with:
Personal hygiene (brushing teeth and getting dressed)
Going for walks
Occasional shopping and light housekeeping
Look into adult day care and transportation programs
See what options are available in your community:
Adult day care programs can provide both care and companionship. Offered through hospitals, senior centers and other organizations, these drop-off programs are a safe place for your loved one to stay while you're away during the day. Their services may include meals, medication management, physical therapy or exercise opportunities and a chance to socialize with others. Search for local centers near you by visiting the National Adult Day Services Association.
Transportation services can help adults who are mobile but unable to drive to doctors’ appointments and physical therapy or run errands. Many communities either offer these services for seniors and those with disabilities or have volunteer groups that provide assistance. To find resources in your area, use the Eldercare Locator tool.
#2: Rethink Self-Care
Most caregivers tend to put themselves on the back burner. You might delay going to the doctor for your own health needs, start skipping meals or decide to put social plans on hold indefinitely.
Perhaps you spend all day and night at the hospital or in the house so you can be close to your loved one. And while your devotion is admirable, ignoring your physical and emotional needs can quickly lead to caregiver burnout.
Attending to your needs isn't selfish. Think of it as another thing you do for your loved one so you can continue to feel your best and provide care for them. Getting proper nutrition, rest and exercise is essential. And taking a break from the hospital or the house is a great mood booster. Stroll through the hospital gardens, go for a walk or meet with a friend for lunch.
Other simple ways to care for your health include: