You would do anything for your family. But just because you’re willing and happy to care for your family doesn’t mean it isn’t hard, and it doesn’t mean you can’t get burnt out. Love is powerful, but it’s not the cure for the bone-deep exhaustion that can accompany being a family caregiver. According to Cleveland Clinic, more than 60% of caregivers experience symptoms of burnout. To give those you care for the best of you, you need to make sure you’re caring for yourself. Consider implementing these five tips to prevent family caregiver burnout.  

Take Respite Care Any Way It’s Offered 

I remember lying awake in my bed at six in the morning, I was exhausted, having only gotten home from my shift at an inpatient mental health facility at 1am. I would close my eyes and listen for the creaks from my grandpa’s bedframe in the next room over. It was my signal that he was awake and would be ready for his breakfast and medication soon. I’d quickly jump out of bed and hurry downstairs so I could start cooking for him. I was happy to do this, but it could get exhausting at times. Caretaking, work, sleep, caretaking, repeat. Until my days off. On these days other family members stepped in, and I didn’t spend any time with my grandpa. As much as I loved him, I needed those days away from caregiving. That’s why the first thing on this list is to give yourself a respite.  

Respite care is temporary care provided by someone other than the primary caregiver. It can come in many forms; it could be from family, trusted neighbors, friends, or a professional service. And it can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. The most important thing is that the primary caregiver gets some time to recharge. They can use that time however they want, whether that be watching reality TV, seeing friends, or going on a trip.  

If you’re looking for respite care services for a loved one, check out this respite care locator tool to find a provider near you. And remember, taking time for yourself doesn’t mean you don’t love the person you care for. It means you know they need you at your best. 

Talk To a Therapist  

If you’re a caregiver and you’re feeling overwhelmed, angry, guilty, or depressed, you aren’t alone. These are common feelings associated with being a caregiver, especially one who is experiencing burnout. In fact, 40% to 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression.  

If you’re feeling this way, it’s important to talk to a mental health professional. Even if you don’t feel depressed, speaking with a counselor can be helpful to sort out the emotions that go along with having a family member who needs care. And it’s always better to address your mental health before it gets to the point of crisis or burnout. If you’re looking for a therapist near you, try this therapist finder, or log on to your insurance portal. There are many types of therapists available, and it’s possible to find one that fits your lifestyle. There are even therapists who will supply their services remotely. 

Surround Yourself with Supportive People 

When you are a family caregiver, it can feel like there is suddenly a deep chasm separating you from friends and family. Those who aren’t caregivers may not always understand why you say no to last- minute plans or don’t call as much as you used to. And sometimes it can feel like no one really understands what you’re going through. That’s why it’s vital to have supportive people you can talk to and share your feelings with. One of the best ways to find people like this is through local support groups. Google “family caregiver support groups near me” to find local organized groups that meet in-person or check out one of these online support groups

You may be amazed how cathartic talking to other people who are going through similar experiences can be for you. Plus, you might learn some great strategies other people have used that have helped them on their caregiving journey. 

Get The Training You Need 

There are few things more panic-inducing than trying to care for someone and not knowing if you’re doing the right thing. Should you correct someone with dementia, or should you agree with them when they start arguing? How often should you roll someone over to prevent bed sores? How do you move someone from a bed to wheelchair without hurting them? The list goes on and on. And when you are constantly questioning whether you are doing the right thing, it can cause severe anxiety. To prevent burnout, it’s important you learn more about the condition of the person you’re caring for. To begin, check out some of the training here from AARP, and be sure to ask their doctor and care team plenty of questions. They are there for you, too! 

Take Care of Yourself 

You’ve heard it a thousand times before, but it bears repeating. You need to practice self-care. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to go to the spa (although you certainly can if you want). Self-care is really just the practice of looking after your own health. That means physical and mental health. It requires that you eat well, get exercise, go to the doctor when you need to, and look after your mental well-being.  

Your well-being is just as important as the person’s you’re looking after, and you need to be well if you are going to be of any help to them. Here are some simple ways to practice self-care: 

  • Brush your teeth in the morning and at night 
  • Eat plenty of fruits and veggies 
  • Go for short walks around the block  
  • Attend your regular check-ups at the doctor and dentist 
  • Drink water 
  • Watch a show or read a book 
  • Take advantage of respite care to have some alone time or time with friends 
  • Meditate to relax and recenter 

We know it can sometimes feel impossible to find time in the day to even take a few moments to care for yourself, but it needs to be a priority to prevent burnout. 

Know the Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout 

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the following are the signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout: 

  • Emotional and physical exhaustion 
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and other loved ones 
  • Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed 
  • Feeling hopeless and helpless 
  • Changes in appetite and/or weight 
  • Changes in sleep patterns 
  • Unable to concentrate 
  • Getting sick more often 
  • Irritability, frustration or anger toward others 

If you are experiencing these symptoms, it’s time to ask for help. Caregiving is a wonderful, often fulfilling role, but it is hard, and sometimes you will need to lean on your family, friends, community, and professionals. Explore the Caregiver Family Alliance for a wealth of resources and be sure to check out their resources by state.  

To learn more about how HHAeXchange supports family caregivers and simplifies self-direction management, click here today!