Preventing Caregiver Burnout

Helping the person you’re caring for can be hard work. That’s why many caregivers—maybe even you—sometimes feel the physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that health experts call caregiver burnout.

Caregiver burnout is common. So knowing how to recognize the first signs is a good start to helping you prevent it. Symptoms may include:

  • Tearing up or crying a lot
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Overreacting to minor problems
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Staying away from family and friends
  • Having trouble relaxing
  • Feeling angry more often than usual
  • Losing your temper with the person in your care

How can you prevent caregiver burnout? Think about these tips:

Taking care of your own well-being

It’s OK to set aside a little “ME time.” Your emotional health is important. Doing something that helps you relax can boost your mood. It can be as simple as taking a quiet moment during the day, listening to music, or simply doing something nice for yourself, such as drinking a calming cup of tea. Keep doing the things you enjoy—whether it’s a hobby such as gardening, or favorite pastimes such as dancing or playing sports.

Your health is important too. Finding the time or energy to take care of your needs may seem difficult or selfish at first—but it will help you stay strong as a caregiver. Keeping your routine checkups, exercising when possible, eating healthy food, and getting enough sleep are ways to help you stay healthy.

Seeking emotional support if needed

Caring for someone can be an emotional experience. Talking with family members, friends, and caregiver support groups about your feelings or frustrations can be a great relief. Check out support groups in your local community. And do not forget about therapists and counselors. They can offer ideas about how to deal with your feelings.

Staying informed

As a caregiver, you may be looking for a better or more efficient way to help the person in your care. Learning hands-on caregiving skills, such as the proper way to help the person you are caring for in and out of bed, can help prevent injury or exhaustion that can lead to caregiver burnout. Physical or occupational therapists can be valuable resources for advice. Also, check out popular caregiving books at your local library or bookstore, or browse caregiving Web sites.

Saving time and travel

Instead of always going out for services such as haircuts or pet grooming, look for hairdressers or pet groomers who make house calls.

If grocery shopping is another source of stress, follow these simple tips:

  • Ask for a printed floor plan of the store in advance—it’ll save you or the person in your care time and energy when shopping.
  • Find out when the store is least crowded and try to shop during that time.
  • Keep a grocery list near the fridge. Update it when you run out of items. Better yet, you can give the list to a friend, neighbor, or family member—it’s an easy way to let them help.
  • Find a grocery store near you that offers home delivery. The store may charge a small fee, but your savings in time and stress may make it worthwhile.

Considering respite care

Respite care allows you to take a break from caregiving—usually because someone else is helping to provide care.

Every caregiver needs a break from time to time, even if it’s only for a few hours. If the person in your care cannot be left alone, respite care services such as home health aides, adult day care, and overnight care at a facility, such as a nursing home, can help. Find respite care services in your area.

Remember to take time for your own health needs and find ways that make supporting the person in your care easier, so you can help prevent caregiver burnout.

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