Your loved one’s health begins to decline, and without a moment’s hesitation, you step in – ready to help. But before you know it, your patience is wearing thin and you’re tempted to throw in the towel – or disappear in the Canadian Rockies (whichever comes first).
Don’t beat yourself up or buy that plane ticket just yet. You might have Caregiver Burnout – a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that sometimes is accompanied by a change in attitude, from positive and caring, to negative and unconcerned.
Caregiver Burnout is very real and requires your attention, especially since many of the symptoms mimic depression. If you’re feeling this way, you’re not alone – and there are strategies that can help:
1. Take an emotional step back. Know that this does not have to become your new, permanent state of being. Caring for someone should never be in lieu of caring for yourself, and you can find the balance to achieve both.
2. Identify your needs. What’s missing from your life now that wasn’t missing before? Maybe it’s that workout class twice a week, time alone to catch up on your favorite show, or long walks with your kids or grandkids. Maybe it’s just a good night’s sleep! Whatever it was that nourished you in the past needs to find its way back to the present. Identify those activities and commit to including them in your life.
3. Recruit a team of ‘special ops,’ and work with them to make a plan. You won’t be able to realistically reclaim your activities without asking for some help. Now is not the time to be silent. Speak up – tell your family and friends that in order for you to take care of your loved one and yourself, their help is needed. Work with your new team to create a schedule of shared duties, reiterating any times that you specifically want off.
4. Accept what you can change, and what you can’t. Caregiving typically isn’t a sprint but a marathon. Longevity means realizing that you’re providing care, not working miracles. Although it may be difficult to accept your loved one’s condition, speaking with their medical team (if possible) to understand what successes you can expect, and which you can’t, is important to framing realistic goals.
5. Talk to a professional. Therapists, social workers and clergy are all great resources because many are trained to counsel individuals on this issue. Additionally, you might consider joining a support group or program in your area. Not sure where to find one? A great resource is the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging website where you can find an agency in your area. They can recommend support groups and programs, and in fact, might even host some of their own.