How to Avoid Caregiver Fatigue and Burnout
Well-rested, happy caregivers are crucial to the job. But the job is exhausting. So caregivers must balance caring for someone else and caring for themselves. Otherwise, they can experience caregiver burnout and develop serious health problems.
Caregivers instinctively put a senior’s comfort and happiness above their own, which can create serious repercussions. If caregivers sacrifice their own happiness for the sake of their job, they won’t be any good to the seniors they serve.
The American Medical Association describes the role of a caregiver as a potential “occupational hazard.” Caregivers face incredible stress and are at risk of psychological and physical problems. Side effects of caregiving include general burnout, fatigue, self-neglect, depression, family conflicts and more.
Beat Caregiver Burnout: Happy Caregivers Care for Themselves
A Place for Mom has collected a series of tips to help with caregiver burnout. Among these, “take care of yourself” is repeated in different forms throughout the list. To a caregiver, that could mean a walk, time to read, a massage, or a day off, but taking care of yourself is essential and should become a regular part of the caregiver’s routine.
Here are some healthy habits to practice to ensure you do not suffer from caregiver fatigue and/or burnout:
1. Nurture your mind and body.
Caregivers must replenish themselves physically and mentally. Caregiving is tough and sometimes depressing work, so it is important to recharge through exercise, social activities, fun classes or even meditation. In fact, Joan Lunden started Camp Reveille as a getaway for women to spend time concentrating on their own well-being, which often goes neglected. Attendees can take part in exercise, educational and relaxation activities. In 2013, nearly 50% of the women who attended Camp Reveille were caregivers.
2. Keep an eye on your health.
According to Nurture Your Soul, 70% of caregivers become sick with some type of health issue. Also, 50% of caregivers die before the person to whom they’re providing care. It is easy to forget yourself when your focus is on others, but make sure to have your annual doctor exam and checkup and stay in tune with your own health.
3. Find support.
Take time each week to vent to friends or family members. It’s healthy. Some caregivers might even consider seeing a counselor they can rely on to help sort out frustrations. There are also caregiver support groups to provide a community of people going through similar situations. These support groups are especially helpful to combat caregiver fatigue and burnout as tips for success and compassionate understanding can be shared.
4. Eat healthy.
A nutritious diet keeps energy levels up and health risks at bay. Seniors need to eat healthy too. So caregivers might think of preparing low-fat meals and snacks that incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables, and enjoying them with the senior, as a part of the job. To save time, they can ask friends or family members for help with meals as needed. A healthy diet goes a long way to energize the human body, improve moods and help caregivers avoid burnout.
Staying active physically helps reduce stress and improve mood. It’s the ideal way to ward off health issues and diseases that can put a caregiver’s job at risk. There is nothing like natural endorphins from exercise to help renew the spirit and combat caregiver fatigue.
Consider activities that help you relax mentally. Yoga, meditation, deep breathing and music are just some of the ways to help a caregiver slow down and put things into perspective. You might also think about incorporating meditation into your caregiving routine as seniors also can benefit.
7. Set personal goals.
A class, a new hobby, a vacation, whatever the dream, caregivers should set and write down personal goals that remind them of what they want to achieve outside of their job. Having something to look forward to has a tendency to energize caregivers, give them hope and help them avoid burnout.
8. Keep a journal.
Writing down frustrations is a good way to let them go. A journal is also a good place to record what went well for the day. Those words can serve as inspiration the next morning and help you put things in perspective. Keeping a journal can help you organize thoughts, make goals and manifest possibilities.
9. Be grateful.
Caring for a senior brings challenges and stress but also the opportunity to make someone else’s life easier and more enjoyable. It could be a last chance to spend time with a loved one who’s near the end. It is important to remember that time is the ultimate gift.
10. Take a day off.
Friends and family members (or part-time elder companions) should fill in for caregivers on a regular basis. That way they can focus on themselves and their goals. This time is for caregivers to do what they like to do, not to run errands for their job.
With a little self-care and planning, you can beat caregiver fatigue and burnout. Happy caregivers practice good habits in daily life. They see the benefits when it comes to caring for others, as do the seniors they care for each day.
What habits do you recommend to help caregivers stay happy? Please share them in the comments below.
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