By: Elizabeth M. Vincent, Esq.
One constant thing we see daily in our office when family members are confronted with the task of caring for their loved ones is caregiver burnout. As the population ages and more adults are finding themselves having to juggle their lives while caring for an aging parent, the number of people acting as caregivers for their parents has skyrocketed. Often, these newly-appointed caregivers find themselves overwhelmed with their new role and they begin to neglect their own personal care needs, in order to make sure that the needs of their parent are met. This is not an option. Neglecting your own personal needs in order to meet the needs of the person you are caring for can result in burnout, illness and injury. If you or someone you love are a caregiver be sure to continue reading to find tips to avoid and minimize the effects of caregiver burnout by taking care of yourself so you can take care of your loved one.
1. Ask for help. If there are family members available to help shoulder the caregiving burden, suggest a family meeting and discuss how all involved can divide and conquer the caregiving tasks so the burden is not placed solely on one person. Also check your local volunteer organizations for potential sources of relief. Often these organizations will provide companions for your loved one while you attend to your personal needs. One excellent resource for these types of organizations is your county Area Agency on Aging Office.
2. Take time for yourself every day. Whether it is calling a friend, watching television, doing a crossword, or reading a novel, make sure that you take at least a few moments for yourself every day.
3. Maintain your healthy lifestyle. It can be tempting to pick the quickest meal option and skip exercise when your days are flying by. However, making sure that you are properly fueling your body with healthy and nutritious foods will provide you with the energy you need to manage the stress of caregiving. Exercise can help to lower stress and to improve physical wellbeing, which is important to provide you with the energy and stamina that you need when caring for your loved one. A simple walk around the neighborhood can be enough to get your blood pumping and can also help you clear your head.
4. Enjoy a hobby. Schedule time each week for yourself to do something that you find enjoyable, preferably something that takes you away from the burdens of caregiving for a few hours, such as reading a book, getting your hair or nails done, watching a movie or gardening. If possible attempt to schedule a short vacation so you can recharge for a few days. Coordinate with family members and local community organizations for alternative care for your loved one. Options such as adult daycare and respite care are available for a fee, which may seem like an unnecessary expense, however, these services provide the crucial relief that many caregivers seek out desperately. Making sure you make time for yourself is crucial, even if all you need is one afternoon a week.
5. Do not neglect your health. It can be easy to be so focused on making sure that your loved one takes their medicine and attends all scheduled doctor’s appointments that you neglect to schedule and attend your own. Setting alarms when you need to take a medication and keeping a calendar with both your personal appointments and the appointments for your loved one can be an effective way at staying on top of your health issues.
6. Sleep. Acting as a caregiver is exhausting with a proper night’s rest. Lack of sleep can result in loss of patience and can potentially can put you and your loved one at risk for injury. Create a soothing space in your bedroom that promotes restful sleep and make sure that you carve out adequate time to get a full night’s rest. 7. Consult with an Elder Law Attorney. There are many different programs available to those who are elderly that can help to reduce, or in some circumstances possibly even eliminate, the cost of caring for a loved one. In order to access these programs, individuals need to qualify financially prior to receiving benefits. An experienced elder law attorney can help your loved one qualify for benefits while at the same time preserving your loved one’s assets. Depending on the situation, you may be entitled to compensation for the care that you are providing.