A Word About Caregiving…

Former First Lady Roslyn Carter has been quoted as saying, “There are four kinds of people in this world: Those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need a caregiver themselves.”

I speak to clients on a regular basis that are at a stage in life where they find themselves unexpectedly hit with the responsibility for the care of an aging or ailing loved one. Regardless of how it happens, most caregivers are not prepared for how all-encompassing the role of a caregiver can be.

Consider the airplane analogy…”In the event of a change in cabin pressure, panels above your head will open revealing oxygen masks. Pull the mask down toward you to activate the flow of oxygen. Cover your nose and mouth with the mask. Place the elastic band around your head and continue to breathe normally. Remember to secure your own mask before assisting others.” Because, you can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself, first.  So, make an extra special effort to be good to yourself and do things that lift your spirits.

Here are some information from the National Family Caregiver’s Association:

Outside the world of paid work, the people most prone to burnout are caregivers – people who devote themselves to the unpaid care of chronically ill or disabled family members. The demands of caregiving can be overwhelming, especially if you feel you have little control over the situation or that you’re in over your head.

If you let the stress of caregiving progress to burnout, it can damage both your physical and mental health. So if you’re caring for a family member, it’s essential that you get the support you need. The good news is that you’re not alone. Help for caregivers is available.

Family caregivers: What you should know about burnout…

Providing care for a family member in need is a centuries-old act of kindness, love, and loyalty. And as life expectancies increase and medical treatments advance, more and more of us will participate in the caregiving process, either as the caregiver, the recipient of care, or possibly both.

Unfortunately, caregiving can take a heavy toll if you don’t get adequate support. Caregiving involves many stressors: changes in the family dynamic, household disruption, financial pressure, and the sheer amount of work involved. The rewards of caregiving – if they come at all – are intangible and far off, and often there is no hope for a happy outcome.

As the stress piles up, frustration and despair take hold and burnout becomes a very real danger. But you can prevent caregiver burnout by following a few essential guidelines:

Learn as much as you can about your family member’s illness and about how to be a caregiver as you can. The more you know, the more effective you’ll be, and the better you’ll feel about your efforts.

Know your limits. Be realistic about how much of your time and yourself you can give. Set clear limits, and communicate those limits to doctors, family members, and other people involved.

Accept your feelings. Caregiving can trigger a host of difficult emotions, including anger, fear, resentment, guilt, helplessness, and grief. As long as you don’t compromise the well-being of the care receiver, allow yourself to feel what you feel.

Confide in others. Talk to people about what you feel; don’t keep your emotions bottled up. Caregiver support groups are invaluable, but trusted friends and family members can help too. You may also benefit from seeing a therapist or counselor.

Source: National Family Caregiver’s Association


By Carol Crimi

1. Educate Yourself about the Care Receiver’s Disease

Search out sources of information about specific diseases such as your physician, medical libraries, the Internet, other caregivers, and associations related to specific diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Set realistic expectations for both yourself and the care receiver based on your understanding of the disease.

2. Practice Self-Care

To avoid “burn out,” add guilt-free breaks from caregiving to the top of your scheduled list of things to do and take them.

Attend to your own health-care needs, i.e., exercise, eat right, get enough sleep, avoid use of alcohol and pills as aids to reducing stress.

Keep your sense of humor.

Participate in activities you enjoy.

Reward yourself.

3. Learn to Let Go

Simplify your lifestyle to conserve your time and energy for what’s most important.

Accept that you may not be able to do things the way you used to, i.e.,housekeeping, meal preparation.

4. Practice Stress-Reduction Techniques such as:

Deep breathing

Progressive relaxation

Guided imagery